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Donaghy under investigation for betting on NBA games

7/20/2007 - NBA

NEW YORK -- The FBI is investigating allegations that
veteran NBA referee Tim Donaghy bet on basketball games over the
past two seasons, including ones in which he officiated.

Defense attorney John Lauro confirmed Donaghy is under
investigation but refused to comment on the allegations or the case.

According to a law enforcement official, authorities are
examining whether the referee made calls to affect the point spread
in games on which he or associates had wagered.

The law enforcement official, who spoke to The Associated Press on Friday on the
condition of anonymity, said the referee was aware of the
investigation and had made arrangements to surrender as early as
next week to face charges.


A woman came to the door of the Bradenton, Fla. home where
Donaghy lives and shouted through the door: "We have no comment."

The law enforcement official said the bets involved thousands of
dollars and were made on games during the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons.

Donaghy is perhaps best-known previously as one of the referees
in the 2004 game at Detroit that ended with Indiana Pacers players
fighting with Pistons fans, among the biggest stains on the league's image in its history.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Donaghy officiated 68
games in the 2005-06 season and 63 games in 2006-07. He also worked
20 playoff games, including five last season -- Pistons-Magic on April 23; Warriors-Mavs on April 27; Suns-Lakers on April 29; Nets-Raptors on May 4; and Spurs-Suns on May 12.

In a statement issued late Friday afternoon, commissioner David Stern said the league will help the government in any way it can.

"We would like to assure our fans that no amount of effort, time or personnel is being spared to assist in this investigation, to bring to justice an individual who has betrayed the most sacred trust in professional sports, and to take the necessary steps to protect against this ever happening again," Stern said. "We will have more to say at a press conference that will be scheduled for next week."

The FBI probe, which began recently, also involves allegations
that the referee had connections to organized crime associates.
Other arrests are expected, the official said.

The referee had a gambling problem, according to the official,
and was approached by low-level mob associates through an
acquaintance.

Those studying Donaghy's games might have noticed some trends.

When the home team was favored by 0-4½ points, it went 5-12 in
games officiated by Donaghy this season, according to Covers.com, a
Web site that tracks referee trends. Home underdogs were 1-7 when
the spread was 5-9.5 points.

Donaghy was part of a crew working the Heat-Knicks game in New
York in February when the Knicks shot 39 free throws to the Heat's
eight, technical fouls were called on Heat coach Pat Riley and
assistant Ron Rothstein, and the Knicks won by six. New York was
favored by 4½.

NBA players in Las Vegas for USA Basketball minicamp were
surprised and disappointed to learn of the accusations.

"As a competitor, as hard as I play, it is disappointing,
definitely," LeBron James said.

Pistons guard Chauncey Billups said he was surprised to learn of
Donaghy's situation.

"I think everybody had the same kind of reaction whether you
played in the league or just a regular citizen," Billups said.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, known for his vocal criticism and questioning of NBA officials, expressed his thoughts on Donaghy's situation on his blog.

"As bad as the allegations facing the NBA today are, its also an opportunity to face every allegation that has ever been directed towards the NBA and its officials and preempt them from ever occurring in the future," Cuban wrote in a message posted Friday evening. "Calamity can be a catalyst for significant change.

"The NBA took a hit today. Behind that hit is a catalyst and opportunity for significant change that could make the NBA stronger than it ever has been. I have complete confidence that David Stern and [NBA Deputy Commissioner/COO] Adam Silver will do just that and the NBA and our officiating will be all the stronger for it."

The investigation first was reported Friday by the New York Post.

"I'm shocked, terribly shocked," said Gary Benson, an NBA
official for 17 years who retired two years ago because of knee
problems. "Those are people that you work with and that you
literally -- you spend more time with those people than you do with
your family."

Benson said he didn't work with Donaghy much.

"You have a lot of acquaintances and very few friends. ... I
probably worked a handful of games with him overall, just a
handful."


Donaghy's neighbors in Bradenton also knew little about the man
who has grabbed the attention of the NBA and FBI.

Bob Girard, who lives near Donaghy in a gated community along a
golf course, said he only noticed one thing out of the ordinary
about his neighbor.

"His house just went up for sale," said Girard, who recalled
Donaghy moving into the neighborhood less than a year ago.

When Girard saw the news of the NBA betting scandal on TV, he
wondered whether it might involve his neighbor, the NBA referee
with daughters who sometimes sold lemonade in front of their house
for five cents a cup.

"They've got a nice family," Girard said. "They seem to be a
pretty normal family to me."

Next-door neighbor Earle Swan said he had not spoken more than
four words to Donaghy since he moved in.

Nevada gambling regulators were not involved in an investigation
and had no information about the allegations, said Jerry Markling,
enforcement chief for the state Gaming Commission and Gaming
Control Board.

Markling, in Las Vegas, said he learned of the probe from news accounts.

"The allegations were new to us," said Mark Clayton, a control
board member. "However, we will continue to monitor them to
ascertain whether there is any connection to Nevada's licensed
sports books."

Veteran oddsmaker John Avello, at the Wynn resort on the Las
Vegas Strip, said that without specific information it would be
difficult to identify wagering irregularities over the last two
seasons.

"At this point, it's too early to know if any games were
affected," Avello said, adding that no regulators or investigators
had contacted him about the case.

Jay Kornegay, executive director of the sports book at the Las
Vegas Hilton, said he had never seen any unusual activity in NBA
betting, and was surprised not to have heard about an investigation
until Friday.

"Whispers would have happened on the street, and we would have
heard something," Kornegay said. "Any type of suspicious or
unusual movements, you usually hear in the industry. We're so
regulated and policed, any kind of suspicion would be discussed.

"We haven't seen anything like that in the NBA that I can
remember," he said, "and we haven't been contacted by anybody."


No referee, umpire, linesmen or other in-game official has ever been arrested or indicted for game- or match-fixing in the history of the four major sports.

Kornegay said legal sports betting in Nevada represents a
fraction of sports betting worldwide, with 98.5 percent of all
action taken outside the state. Clayton cited a 2005 estimate by
the National Gambling Impact Study Commission that found $380
billion is wagered on illegal sports betting, compared with $2.25
billion in legal sports betting in Nevada.

Gambling long has been a problem in sports, and leagues have
made a point of educating players of the potential pitfalls. The
NBA, for example, discusses gambling at rookie orientation, even
bringing in former mobster Michael Franceze to speak.

NBA commissioner David Stern had long objected to putting a team
in Las Vegas because it permits betting on basketball, though
earlier this year allowed Mayor Oscar Goodman to submit a proposal
to owners on how the city would handle wagering on a team if it
moved there.

Goodman argues that legalized gambling, monitored by the Nevada
Gaming Commission, prevents these types of suspicious activities.

"We're the only regulatory agency in the world that really
looks at unusual activity as far as the movement of the line and
that type of conduct," he said. "I think it's a good thing that
Las Vegas has the type of regulation that makes sure that bad
things don't happen."

Donaghy had a run-in with then-Trail Blazer Rasheed Wallace at the Rose Garden four years ago.

Wallace was suspended seven games for threatening Donaghy on the loading dock outside the arena in January 2003. Wallace was apparently upset that Donaghy had called a technical foul on him during a game against Memphis that night.

It was the longest NBA suspension ever levied for something that
didn't involve drugs or physical contact. Wallace forfeited an
estimated $1.6 million in salary.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.