Ex-ASU Hoops Players Plead Guilty
PHOENIX (AP) _ Deep in debt from gambling, Stevin ``Hedake″ Smith asked Arizona State teammate Isaac Burton Jr. in 1994 if he would miss some free throws against Oregon State, if needed, to shave points.
That conspiracy turned into what federal officials Friday called one of the nation’s worst sports gambling scandals.
In an agreement struck with federal prosecutors, Smith, 25, and Burton, 24, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. The two former Sun Devils admitted taking the bribes for fixing four games in 1994.
The FBI also announced a 72-count indictment against four men accused of conspiring to fix games. More indictments are expected.
Indicted in the scandal were sometime bookmaker Benny Silman, 26, of San Diego, a former partner in a cappuccino stand at America West Arena; Joseph Gagliano Jr., 29, a Phoenix investment adviser; and alleged bookmakers Dominic Mangiamele, 61, of Mount Prospect, Ill., and his son, Joseph Mangiamele, 36, of Arlington Heights, Ill.
The charges against them include sports bribery, conspiracy to commit sports bribery, interstate transportation and aid of racketeering.
``This is one of the most significant sports bribery conspiracies involving college athletes in the country, and I must stress the investigation is not over,″ said Bruce Gephardt, head of the FBI’s Phoenix office.
The NCAA said there would be no sanctions against Arizona State.
``To date, there is no information ... indicating that the institution knew or should have known″ about the fixed games, Bill Saum, the NCAA’s agent and gambling issues representative, said at a news conference on the Arizona State campus. ``What occurred here today is the result of a societal problem, not just an Arizona State problem.″
The conspiracy charge against Smith, the school’s No. 2 career scorer, and Burton carries a possible five-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine. But Gephardt said they would likely receive a lighter sentence in return for testimony against others in the case.
Potential penalties for the four others on the 72 counts could total hundreds of years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.
The FBI arrested the Mangiameles on Thursday, and they were released on bond Friday. Summonses were issued for Silman and Gagliano, and a Dec. 17 court date set for all four in Phoenix.
Silman’s attorney declined comment. Gagliano did not return phone messages left with his attorney and his wife. A call to a Mangiamele family business was not returned, and their home phone numbers are unlisted.
After the pleas were announced, Burton was suspended indefinitely from the Continental Basketball Association, where he’d been playing for the Quad City Thunder, said CBA spokesman Troy Furr. A final decision on Burton’s status will be made after league officials review the case, the CBA said.
No court date was set for Burton and Smith.
Burton was most recently in Boise. Smith has been playing pro basketball in France. Neither his agent nor his attorney returned calls Friday.
When he first went to Burton with the plan _ meeting him in a truck outside a dormitory the day before the Oregon State game _ Smith was in debt from betting on pro football and hockey, owing money to Silman, a fellow student.
Silman wanted Smith to guarantee the Sun Devils would beat the Beavers by fewer than eight points. If Smith could do it, Silman would forgive the debt and throw in $20,000 on top.
So Smith asked Burton, the team’s best free-throw shooter, to miss a few tosses if needed to keep the margin under eight. Burton’s payoff would be $1,000 up front and maybe more cash later, Smith said.
``After considering everything he said, I told him I would do it,″ Burton said.
Smith scored 37 points. Arizona State won by six points. In Las Vegas, gamblers won against the odds.
Smith agreed to fix the four games for $20,000 a game, promising Silman to keep the Sun Devils’ victory margin to less than the point spread by oddsmakers, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph J. Lodge.
Oregon State was followed by games against Oregon, Southern California and Washington.
Burton helped fix two games, and was paid at least $4,300, authorities said.
By the end of the Washington game, gamblers recruited for the scheme had placed 61 bets totaling some $900,000 on them in at least eight Las Vegas casinos, the FBI said Friday.
The FBI has no evidence that other players or coaches were involved in the scheme, Gephardt said.
``To date there has been no indication that the coaching staff or any other person connected with ASU had any knowledge or prior information of this criminal conspiracy,″ Gephardt said. ``Everyone contacted at the university has been fully cooperative.″
``This is a difficult day for Arizona State University, but we will move forward,″ said athletic director Kevin White.
He pledged an educational effort to teach students about the dangers of sports gambling.
Former ASU basketball coach Bill Frieder, who said the scandal forced him to resign Sept. 10, decried the amount of gambling on American campuses.
``The NCAA statistics are startling: 25 percent of the college football and basketball student-athletes who have been interviewed are betting on games,″ he said. ``Gambling is an addiction of the ’90s. It’s everywhere, and I think we’ve got a huge problem out there that needs to be dealt with.″