Jerome Allen, one of the biggest stars in Penn men’s basketball history and the Quakers' head coach from 2009 to 2015, allegedly accepted bribes while coaching at Penn, according to a Bloomberg report.
In a federal indictment filed July 19 in an alleged Medicare fraud case, Philip Esformes, a businessman based in Miami, Fla. bribed an anonymous coach, labeled “Coach 2” in the document, in order to aid his son’s chances of gaining admission to a Philadelphia university. Bloomberg reported that a “person familiar with the matter” identified “Coach 2” as Allen, and the university as Penn.
According to Bloomberg, Allen fits the description of the coach in question.
Between cash payments and paid trips to Miami, including a flight in his private jet, Esformes allegedly gave Allen more than $74,000, according to the indictment. Esformes is charged with health care fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and bribery. Allen, now a coach with the NBA’s Boston Celtics, is not charged with a crime.
Esformes’ son, Morris Esformes, a Wharton rising senior, was admitted to Penn in 2015 as a part of Allen’s last recruiting class. The alleged bribe was aimed at helping his son gain admittance to Penn through a recruited player designation, according to the report.
The bribes allegedly began in 2013, when Philip Esformes paid for "Coach 2" to come to Miami for a recruiting visit to watch Morris Esformes play. Over the next two years, the elder Esformes wired the coach over $50,000 in cash through an account in the name of a nursing home administrator, the indictment alleges.
The indictment alleges that Morris Esformes would not have been recruited as a basketball player if not for the bribes. However, Esformes' defense attorney and 1985 College graduate Howard Srebnick, told the Miami Herald that “[Morris] scored more than 150 points higher on his SAT than I did, and I cannot dribble a basketball with either hand, much less sink a three-point shot.”
Srebnick also told the Herald that Philip Esformes hired Allen when his son was a sophomore in high school to help him improve his game, “as many parents do when their kids show athletic promise.”
Prosecutors say that Philip Esformes’ case is the biggest instance of health care fraud in United States history. His lawyers have repeatedly denied accusations.
By the time Morris Esformes got to campus in the fall of 2015, Allen had already been fired following three straight sub-.500 seasons, and current coach Steve Donahue had taken charge of the program. Penn Athletics’ website does not list Esformes as ever appearing on the men’s basketball roster. Morris, then a 6-foot guard, would likely have played point guard for the Quakers.
The alleged bribery is the latest in a series of accusations and arrests related to corruption in NCAA recruitment. This allegation is unique, however, because it involves bribing a coach, while the majority of NCAA scandals have consisted of schools or coaches bribing athletes to join their programs.
Most recently, in September 2017, the Justice Department charged 10 people in connection to several fraud and corruption schemes. The investigation uncovered a widespread system of bribes given to top high school basketball recruits by apparel companies and coaches.
The accusations against Allen are separate from the NCAA probe. Penn men's basketball declined to comment to The Daily Pennsylvanian on the situation.
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