In the wake of an indictment alleging that former University of Pennsylvania basketball coach Jerome Allen took bribes from a father of a high school player to help get his son into the university, Penn announced Monday that it was hiring outside counsel to investigate the allegations.
"Penn Athletics is aware of the allegations regarding former head men's basketball coach Jerome Allen, and we take these allegations seriously,'' read the statement released late Monday morning. "The University has retained outside legal counsel to investigate the matter. We will have no further comment at this time."
Bloomberg first reported Friday the allegations that Allen, now a Boston Celtics assistant, was bribed by a Florida businessman to help the businessman's son gain admission to the school.
While Allen, who couldn't be reached for comment, isn't being charged with a crime, a count of the federal indictment filed last week charged that the businessman, Philip Esformes of Miami Beach, gave Allen more than $74,000 in the form of cash, a recruiting trip to Miami and separate rides on a private jet in 2013 and 2014. Esformes is charged with health-care fraud related to his nursing homes and assisted-living centers, money laundering, conspiracy and bribery. The Bloomberg report noted that Esformes was initially charged two years ago with carrying out massive health-care fraud involving Medicare and Medicaid claims totaling $1 billion. He has pleaded not guilty and is in jail awaiting trial.
The allegation pertaining to Allen is that he went to bat for the son, Morris Esformes, with Penn's admissions department. While Ivy League schools don't provide athletic scholarships, they typically have slots for recruited athletes. Esformes was listed as an incoming Penn Quakers player, but Allen was let go as coach in the months before Esformes got to the school and the Esformes never played a game for the Quakers.
The indictment alleges the businessman's son would not have been a recruited athlete "had it not been for the kickback and bribe payments."
An Episcopal Academy graduate, Allen is a Penn basketball icon, a star guard from 1991 to 1995 and an Ivy League player of the year. He coached the Quakers from 2009 to 2015 after a long professional playing career, mostly in Europe after a couple of seasons in the NBA.
Because Penn receives federal money, the count of the indictment that pertains to Allen and Penn calls it conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and honest services wire fraud. Penn was described as University 1 and Allen as Coach 2.
The indictment noted, "As the head men's basketball coach at University 1, Basketball Coach 2 owed University 1 the intangible right of honest services."