Ex-San Diego star charged in scheme

Updated: April 12, 2011, 7:33 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

SAN DIEGO -- A former University of San Diego star player, along with another former player and former assistant coach, were charged with running a sports betting business to affect the outcome of games, federal authorities said Monday.

The indictment names Brandon Johnson, the school's all-time leader in points and assists who finished his college career last year; Thaddeus Brown, an assistant coach at the school in the 2006-07 season; and Brandon Dowdy, who played at San Diego in the 2006-07 season and at the University of California, Riverside, from 2008 to 2010. Seven other people also were charged.

Authorities did not say how the alleged scheme worked and said they were trying to determine its scope, including the number of games allegedly involved.

The indictment alleges that Johnson, 24, took a bribe to influence a San Diego game in February 2010 and solicited someone else this January to affect the outcome of Toreros basketball games while playing for the Dakota Wizards, a development team for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies.

Johnson, a guard for the Toreros from 2005 to 2010, finished with 1,790 points and 525 assists.

"These are very serious allegations and the university is fully cooperating with the investigation," San Diego president Mary Lyons said.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Johnson
Marc Sanchez/Icon SMIAn indictment alleges Brandon Johnson took a bribe to influence a San Diego game in 2010 and solicited someone else this season.

U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy didn't name the Toreros' opponent in the February 2010 game, saying only that Johnson was the school's starting point guard at the time.

Johnson "was intricately involved in both the illegal gambling business and in the sports bribery schemes," Duffy said at a news conference.

There was no attorney listed for Johnson in court documents.

Johnson was on the team that stunned Connecticut in overtime in the first round of the 2008 NCAA tournament, the biggest win in school history. San Diego finished 22-14 that season, and has struggled ever since under coach Bill Grier. It finished 6-24 last season.

Johnson averaged 6.1 points a game this season for the Dakota Wizards. The team wrapped up its season April 4.

Scott Woodmansee, a spokesman for the Dakota Wizards, said the Bismarck, N.D., team had no comment. He had no contact information for Johnson.

The indictment, handed up Friday by a federal grand jury in San Diego and unsealed Monday, alleges that Brown, 32, of El Cajon, and Dowdy, 22, of San Diego, solicited someone to affect the outcome of a game at the University of California, Riverside in February 2010.

Authorities said San Diego was cooperating fully and was not accused of any wrongdoing. Duffy and Keith Slotter, head of the FBI's San Diego office, met Monday with school officials.

"They are rightly concerned," Duffy said. "They were very responsive and cooperative and it was a good meeting."

San Diego, a small, Catholic school that plays in the West Coast Conference, said it informed the NCAA of the probe Monday.

The NCAA released a statement Monday expressing its concern about the ex-players' betting scheme.

"These allegations are precisely why the NCAA continues to take such a strong stance against any sports wagering activities," the statement said. "We take any allegation of point-shaving very seriously as it is a crime that threatens two core NCAA principles -- health and safety of student-athletes and the integrity of the game."

The investigation evolved from a probe of a marijuana distribution operation that began about a year ago, Slotter said.

The 10 people are charged with conspiracy to commit sports bribery, conduct an illegal gambling business and distribute marijuana. If convicted, each faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 fines.

Nine of the 10 were arrested, including Johnson, who was taken into custody Saturday in Houston. One person remained at large.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.