As march madness approaches, college basketball is in the spotlight. Lately, the sport has also been in the spotlight for some of the wrong reasons–specifically, an FBI probe into the NCAA, and alleged bribery crimes committed by college coaches, agents, and officials of large shoe companies.
The NCAA Scandal
The investigation stems from allegations that college coaches knew of, organized, or encouraged shoe companies to pay players to attend certain schools. In return, when and if the players turned pro, they would sign with the shoe company as an endorser, and with the sports agent that helped make the deal happen.
Anybody who follows college sports knows that such an arrangement is a violation of NCAA rules. What comes as a surprise to most is the involvement of the FBI. How is it that these coaches and agents are being targeted with committing federal crimes instead of just violations of NCAA rules?
The Crime of Bribery
The answer lies in bribery. The crime that movies have long associated with secretly paying off politicians or judges in secret, smoky back rooms has a much farther reach than many people think.
Bribery is paying someone to do something (or refrain from doing something) in their official capacity, even in private organizations or companies. Bribery can happen in labor unions, large companies, and yes, sports organizations. Giving people items of value (not just money) in order to influence their decisions or cause them to do or refrain from doing something, is classic bribery.
Both the person making the bribe and the person accepting it can be guilty of the crime, although for practical reasons, both may not be charged in every case.
Simply giving a gift to someone who has authority, while it may not look very good, does not by itself prove bribery. There must be the intent for the “gift” to induce an action by the other person. Whether the intent exists will depend on the circumstances and the nature of the gift. While a large gift may be common from one Fortune 500 CEO to another, it may not be so common from an employee to a union leader.
Businesses often get into trouble by confusing common business practice in the private sector with what is permissible in the public sector. For example, it may be common for a business to pay for meals to influence a potential client, and that is generally not bribery. Paying for meals for a city commissioner, however, could be seen as bribery of a public official.
Using an intermediary or third person will not prevent a bribery charge. That is exactly what the NCAA probe alleges; that third parties were used to funnel money and make offers to college recruits.
Similar to this, it is illegal to try to provide gifts or money to an employee or an agent of a business in order to encourage the agent to persuade supervisors or decision makers of the business to take or refrain from taking any action.
Make sure the State proves every element of the crimes you are charged with committing. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your rights if you are arrested or charged with a crime.