Ex-Toledo player linked to point-shaving leaves his pro team

Originally Published: August 11, 2008
By Yoel Adames | Special to ESPNdeportes.com

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- The former University of Toledo basketball player charged with fixing games in a nearly two-year federal gambling probe is leaving the Dominican Republic en route to Puerto Rico, where he plans to cooperate fully with the authorities.

"Sammy Villegas will travel to Puerto Rico on Wednesday to meet with his relatives and his lawyer," said a source close to Dominican team Los Cocolos de San Pedro de Macoris, where Villegas played this year. "Due to the accusations, Villegas has become a distraction to other players while several key sponsors of the club are expressing serious concern in regards to the bad press that the team is getting," added the source, who asked not to be named.

Villegas faces charges of shaving points in games in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, according to federal documents filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of five years of imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine. Any cooperation by Villegas could be a breakthrough in the government's lengthy investigation.

Villegas declined comment Saturday night when initially reached by ESPN.com. One day later, he broke his silence when approached by the local media.

"I just want to play basketball. That's what I'm getting paid for," said Villegas, who waived his right to a grand jury indictment in signing an information document. "Like I said before, I don't want to talk about my life, particularly to members of the media."

Villegas, 25, added that he has his family's unconditional support throughout the legal process.

"I am not a criminal. I'll be back."

No trial date has been set, but court documents specify a sentencing date of Nov. 18, which might indicate that he already is cooperating with the government.

Villegas, a 6-foot-6 guard, scored 19 points Sunday night as Los Cocolos lost 75-68 to Los Constituyentes de San Cristobal.

"The board of directors [of Los Cocolos] is meeting privately to discuss Villegas' role with the club," stated the source.

Héctor J. Alcalá and Antonio Mir, part of the management team of Los Cocolos, could not be reached for comment.

A voice message at the office of John Belanger, Villegas' attorney in the U.S., indicates that Belanger is out of town until Aug. 15.

ESPN.com's Mike Fish contributed to this report.

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