NEW YORK (AP) — A former Oklahoma State assistant basketball coach pleaded guilty Wednesday to taking bribes from business advisers to steer them to star college athletes expected to turn pro.
Lamont Evans, 41, entered the plea in New York federal court to conspiring to commit bribery. He admitted receiving $22,000 to steer the players at the University of South Carolina and Oklahoma State University to certain financial advisers and business managers, attorney Johnny McCray said.
Evans also agreed to forfeit the bribe money he received from two financial advisers as part of the deal he signed Thursday.
"I now know that accepting those funds in exchange for introducing them to any one player was wrong and violated the law," he said.
Sentencing was set for May 10 on a charge that carries the potential for up to five years in prison, though a plea agreement between Evans and prosecutors recommends no more than two years behind bars.
Judge Edgardo Ramos also warned that he could be deported because he is a citizen of Barbados, though he lives in Florida. He was a resident of Stillwater, Oklahoma, at the time of his arrest.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement that Evans abused his position as a mentor and coach for personal gain.
"A scheme Evans apparently thought was a slam-dunk actually proved to be a flagrant foul," he said.
"He accepted responsibility for what happened. He will be making a vigorous appeal for the lowest sentence possible," attorney Johnny McCray said.
Evans is the third former NCAA assistant coach to plead guilty in the case. The prosecution has revealed how well-connected mentors sometimes paid family members of top-tier athletes to steer the NBA-destined youngsters to schools or managers.
In recent weeks, similar pleas have been entered by former University of Southern California assistant basketball coach Tony Bland and ex-University of Arizona assistant coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson. Both are awaiting sentencing. Former Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person is scheduled for trial in June.
"These guys are scapegoats," McCray said. "The bigger name coaches were not touched here. It's really sad."
He added: "I think this is overkill. They could have used the sanctions available within the NCAA, which has the ability to permanently bar a coach from coaching."
When arrests were made in September 2017, prosecutors said Evans committed his crime in 2016 and 2017 when he accepted the bribes from a New Jersey-based financial adviser and another person cooperating with the investigators and posing as a business adviser to athletes.
They said Evans then falsely touted the services of the men to young athletes and their families, boasting falsely that the man cooperating with law enforcement was "my guy" and "has helped me personally."