Six ex-players charged with conspiracy

Updated: May 6, 2009, 7:53 PM ET
By Mike Fish | ESPN.com

University of Toledo officials have known for two years the bad news was coming. It finally struck Wednesday when six former players -- three each from Toledo's basketball and football programs, as well as two Detroit-area businessmen -- were charged with conspiracy to commit sports bribery in an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Sports Bribery Indictments

Here are the indictments on sports bribery charges by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Michigan, including indictments of six former University of Toledo football and basketball players. Detroit businessmen Ghazi Manni and Mitchell Karam have been indicted in both cases.
Documents:
Toledo point-shaving
Thoroughbred horse racing

More
ESPN.com investigates the Toledo case

The 20-count indictment charges that between December 2004 and December 2006, Ghazi "Gary" Manni, 52, and Mitchell Karam, 76, paid money and other things of value to the athletes in order to influence, or attempt to influence, the final score of both football and basketball games. Though the money paid players was at times as little as $500, this is believed to be the first major gambling case involving two sports on a college campus.

Nothing in the indictment, however, details Manni and Karam placing wagers on football games. Instead, the indictment lists 17 specific games in which they placed bets on Toledo basketball contests, including the amounts wagered. The indictment also details 133 phone calls between Manni and those charged in the case.

Charged in the indictment, in addition to Manni and Karam, were Harvey "Scooter" McDougle Jr., 24, a former running back from Cleveland; Adam Cuomo, 31, a former running back from Hagersville, Ontario, Canada; Quinton Broussard, 25, a former running back from Carrollton, Texas; Keith Triplett, 29, a former basketball player from Toledo; Anton Currie, 25, a former basketball player from Okemos, Mich; and Kashif Payne, 24, a former basketball player from Chester, Pa.

"Today's charges shine a light into the dark corner of illegal sports bookmaking and reveals the unfortunate consequences that the influence of money from betting can have on the integrity of both athletes and athletic contests," said U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg in announcing the indictment.

Burns said the university has continued to update the NCAA on developments during the federal investigation. In addition, he said the university's in-house assessment after the gambling revelations became public uncovered no wrongdoing on the part of its athletic department or coaches.

"We found the culture and ethos of the department to be sounded and solid and nothing to indicate something like this would occur," Burns said. "That was a very thorough and important process. We continue to have confidence in our athletic department and take this very serious. But we feel in many ways this is behind us as we look to the future of UT athletics."

News of the gambling probe first broke in spring 2007 when McDougle Jr., who as recently as last month still aspired to get an NFL tryout, was charged in connection with fixing games, though that charge was later dropped on a procedural matter. McDougle Jr. has denied any wrongdoing.

Harvey McDougle Sr. said his son had no idea the indictment was coming and was surprised to learn of it.

"We thought it was all behind us," McDougle Sr. said. "He didn't have any idea. The last time we spoke he was trying to get a tryout in the league."

The games involving Toledo

The indictment alleges Ghazi [Gary] Manni and Mitchell Karam used interstate telephone facilities to place bets knowing the games were fixed, including these Toledo basketball games:
• 11/20/05: $42,000 vs. South Carolina
• 11/27/05: $10,000 vs. SMU
• 12/3/05: $10,000 vs. Northern Illinois
• 12/17/05: $44,000 vs. St. Bonaventure
• 12/21/05: $21,000 vs. East Carolina
• 1/4/06: $10,000 vs. Kent State
• 1/7/06: $15,000 vs. Akron
• 1/15/06: $17,000 vs. Bowling Green
• 1/18/06: $21,000 vs. Miami [Ohio]
• 1/24/06: $40,000 vs. Northern Illinois
• 2/1/06: $40,000 vs. Western Michigan
• 2/4/06: $20,500 vs. Central Michigan
• 2/7/06: $20,000 vs. Kent State
• 2/18/06: $30,000 vs. Detroit Mercy
• 11/20/06: $25,000 vs. Va. Commonwealth
• 12/2/06: $21,000 vs. Vanderbilt
• 12/19/06: $21,000 vs. Detroit Mercy

In a federal court document unsealed last month, Cuomo, a former reserve running back who rushed for 24 yards during his senior season of 2003, admitted to being a key figure in an alleged point-shaving scheme involving both the school's basketball and football teams.

During a December 2006 meeting with FBI agents, authorities said, "Cuomo stated that he was the University of Toledo player who started the point-shaving scheme with 'Gary.'" Cuomo is described as having provided the gambler with information about upcoming Toledo games and helping to place bets on the games. The complaint further stated that Cuomo admitted bringing "numerous" basketball and football players to Detroit "for the specific purpose of 'Gary' asking them to participate in the point-shaving scheme."

Last summer, Sammy Villegas, a former Toledo basketball player, was charged with fixing games during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. Villegas, who is believed to be cooperating with the government, is scheduled to be sentenced June 18.

The indictment filed Wednesday alleges Manni and Karam wagered approximately $407,500 on Toledo basketball and football games between November 2005 and December 2006. Both Mani and Karam, as well as jockey Ricardo Valdes, were also named in a separate indictment Wednesday that alleges they paid jockeys to influence the results of thoroughbred horse races at Tampa Bay Downs in Florida. Subsequently, the two allegedly used the simulcast pari-mutuel wagering system to place bets on the fixed races.

Neil Fink, the attorney for Manni, said federal prosecutors have allowed Manni to turn himself in, and he will likely be arraigned Friday in Detroit.

"He is presumed innocent and it will play out in court," Fink said.

When ESPN.com called Manni's house for comment, a person identifying himself as Manni's son answered but would not give his name.

"He's not commenting on anything," the person said.

"I have spoken briefly with my client and he claims he's definitely innocent," Ray Richards, the attorney for Triplett, said Wednesday afternoon. "He wasn't involved in this type of activity. This is what the legal system is for. And we will defend the case.'"

Karam, a real estate investor, was also accused of scheming to defraud a financial institution in a federal criminal complaint filed last month. Karam -- who, like Manni, is a Chaldean Iraqi -- doesn't have a criminal record, though sources familiar with federal organized crime cases told ESPN.com that he has been previously connected with members of La Cosa Nostra in Detroit. In a 1970s federal crackdown on a sports gambling syndicate in and around Detroit, Karam was identified as an alleged co-conspirator, though he was never indicted. Among other alleged (and unindicted) co-conspirators in that case were Jerome "Dizzy" Dean, the Hall of Fame pitcher, and his nephew, Paul. Among the charged was Jack Lucido, a notorious bookmaker and underworld associate.

In the Toledo case, authorities allege the point-shaving scheme took place between fall 2003 and winter 2006. None of the university's current student-athletes is thought to be part of the illegal activity.

"This case is an example of how organized crime can influence intercollegiate athletics," FBI agent Andrew Arena, who oversaw the gambling probe, said. Arena also thanked University of Toledo officials for their cooperation in the case.

Court filings reveal that federal investigators picked up conversations about the gambling scheme on taps of Manni's phone. In an earlier interview with ESPN.com, Manni revealed a document to a reporter showing that a U.S. district court judged signed off on five separate wiretaps of his phone from November 2005 through December 2006.

According to federal documents, Cuomo was picked up on at least two wiretapped calls -- both of which were made after he left school and were placed from a phone in Canada, where he resides. During a Dec. 1, 2005, conversation, Cuomo spoke of having recruited a Toledo basketball player to engage in the point-shaving scheme.

In a Dec. 21, 2005, conversation, which preceded Toledo's appearance in the GMAC Bowl, Cuomo was caught saying that "he was going to use a senior University of Toledo football player already participating in the point-shaving scheme as an intermediary in an attempt to recruit a senior offensive lineman to help shave points in an upcoming football game by committing penalties during the game."

Authorities are perplexed by the great risk athletes apparently took for very minimal reward. In this case, the gambler was overheard offering to pay the lineman $500, with Cuomo able to negotiate the fee to $1,000.

The FBI alleges the point-shaving scheme took root in fall 2003 when Cuomo met an associate of "Gary's" who operated a cellular telephone store in Toledo. The store operator told FBI agents that Cuomo subsequently introduced him to other Toledo players "who gave him information to use in placing wagers on University of Toledo football and basketball games." The store operator later connected Cuomo with "Gary."

McDougle Jr. told ESPN.com last month that he was introduced to Manni by Cuomo, though he denied that gambling was part of the conversation. He said the meeting took place at a Detroit restaurant during his freshman year.

"We ended up meeting through [Cuomo]," McDougle Jr. said. "He told me he wanted me to meet one of his friends. We just talked and that was it."

The indictment filed Wednesday, though, sheds a different light on the players' relationship with the professional gambler.

"The NCAA is disappointed and concerned to hear about the point-shaving indictments involving former University of Toledo student-athletes and other individuals," NCAA associate director for public and media relations Stacey Osburn said in a statement. "These type of activities are precisely why the NCAA continues to take such a strong stance against any sports wagering. Point-shaving allegations are taken very seriously by the association. There is no doubt that sports wagering threatens the well-being of student-athletes and can affect the integrity of our games.

"The NCAA was aware of the University of Toledo point-shaving allegations and has been in contact with the university, law enforcement officials and Las Vegas gaming officials," Osburn said. "Law enforcement procedures are separate from NCAA enforcement of its rules. NCAA policy prohibits us from commenting on specific details regarding a potential or ongoing investigation."

Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at michaeljfish@gmail.com.