CHARLOTTE, NC (Michael Gordon and Maria David/The Charlotte Observer) - A Charlotte man has emerged amid a web of corruption that funneled tens of thousands of dollars in illegal payments to college basketball coaches and players, federal indictments say.
The goal, according to prosecutors, was to pay players to sign with certain schools or bribe coaches to make sure players inked contracts with certain companies once they turned pro.
One of those companies named in court documents belonged to Rashan Michel, a well-known Atlanta clothier and former NBA and college basketball referee who recently moved to Charlotte, authorities say.
Prosecutors say Michel arranged bribes for Auburn associate head basketball coach and former NBA star Chuck Person while also making payments to other coaches. He is charged with bribery, wire fraud conspiracy, corruption and other crimes, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday in New York federal court.
In all, 10 people were arrested, including four college basketball coaches, financial advisers, business managers as well as a top executive of sportswear giant Adidas. The charges follow a three-year FBI investigation.
Michel, #suitdude on his social media pages, made his initial court appearance Tuesday morning in Charlotte before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Keesler. He was released from custody and ordered to appear in New York for his next hearing.
Three years ago, Michel designed the custom-made suits worn by the top seven picks in the NFL draft, including Rock Hill native and first overall pick Jadaveon Clowney of Rock Hill, according to published reports. His Atlanta store, Thompson Bespoke, served a long list of professional football and basketball clients. In 2011, he also traded punches with NBA legend Dominique Wilkins in a dispute over money, according to reports.
Earliest this summer, Michel's Instagram account said he was moving to Charlotte and that "store#2 coming soon."
Federal documents say Michel was at several clandestine meetings over the past year in which a financial adviser working as an FBI informant paid Person tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to "persuade and pressure" his school's players to do business with the adviser and Michel.
With Michel acting as an intermediary, Person, an All-American at Auburn and a longtime NBA star, collected $91,500 from the informant, documents say.
In one example, Michel, Person and the informant met with an Auburn player in a Manhattan hotel room last December – the same day the Auburn basketball team played Boston College at Madison Square Garden – to persuade the player to sign up with Michel and the informant after he turned pro. Immediately after the meeting, Person pocketed $15,000 from the informant, the indictment says.
Just after Thanksgiving last year, documents say, Person accepted a $50,000 bribe in Alabama – again in return of his pledge to steer his players to do business with Michel and the FBI informant.
Michel's own payments to coaches appear to have been widespread. The indictment says gave "something of value" to assistant coaches "at various National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I basketball programs intending to influence and reward ..."
In exchange for kickbacks from the informant, Michel offered to connect him with a several college coaches, the indictment says.