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Former university coach, players indicted in alleged bribery ring

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The indictment alleges 10 people conspired to fix University of San Diego basketball games
  • It says they also distributed marijuana and bet on games
  • A former assistant coach and the school's all-time scoring leader are named

(CNN) -- A former University of San Diego basketball coach, the school's all-time leading scorer and one other former player have been indicted on charges of running a bribery ring to fix college basketball games, then betting on those games in Las Vegas casinos, federal officials announced Monday.

Seven other people were also charged in the indictment, which was unsealed Monday. It alleges the defendants operated an illegal sports bookmaking business and distributed marijuana, then used the proceeds from that to bribe college basketball players to alter the outcome of games so the defendants could bet on them.

The 10 are each indicted on a single count of conspiracy to commit sports bribery, conduct an illegal gambling business and distribute marijuana. The maximum penalty each faces is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The defendants include Thaddeus Brown, who was an assistant basketball coach at the university during the 2006-07 season, and former players Brandon Johnson and Brandon Dowdy. Johnson is the school's all-time leader in both scoring and assists, the only player in West Coast Conference history to lead his team in both categories.

"The drug trafficking and sports betting charged in this case were organized and substantial, and reflect diversification of criminality that we will not tolerate," said Laura Duffy, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California. "Tampering with sporting events strikes at the integrity of the games; this kind of betrayal is not merely disappointing -- it is criminal and worthy of prosecution."

The indictment doesn't explain how the defendants allegedly tried to fix the outcome of the games, and it doesn't say how much money was involved.

The University of San Diego is a private Catholic school with about 7,800 students and is a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I school.

The school said its own policy prohibited comment on legal matters involving current or former students and employees, but it released the text of a message sent to students about the indictment.

"These are very serious allegations and the university is fully cooperating with the investigation," the message read. "Shortly after learning about the probe, USD representatives contacted the NCAA to inform them about the situation."

The indictment alleges that Johnson, while he was playing for the university, took a bribe to influence the result of a game in February 2010. A year later, in January 2011, Johnson then allegedly solicited an unnamed individual to affect the outcome of school basketball games.

The indictment doesn't say exactly when in those months the alleged fixed games took place.

In February 2010, the Toreros played seven games and lost six of them, finishing the 2009-10 season with a record of 11-21.

In January 2011, the team played nine games and lost eight. For the entire 2010-11 season, the team had a record of 6-24.

Brown and Dowdy are accused of soliciting an unnamed individual to affect the outcome of a college basketball game at the University of California Riverside, where Dowdy played from 2008-10 after playing the 2006-07 season at San Diego, the indictment says.

The indictment says only that they solicited the individual in March 2011, when the Highlanders played four games and lost two. They ended the season with a 12-19 record.

Three residents of San Diego County were indicted for orchestrating the criminal scheme, and four others allegedly helped by managing sports books, collecting gambling debts and distributing marijuana.

A statement from UC Riverside said the school takes the allegations "very seriously" and will be seeking more information about them in the coming days.

The NCAA said it is "extremely concerned" about the allegations.

"These allegations are precisely why the NCAA continues to take such a strong stance against any sports wagering activities," it said in a statement. "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 association said it would wait to take action until the federal case is concluded.

"The sporting industry in the United States is a multibillion-dollar-a-year business," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Keith Slotter. "If games are thrown by a small number of greedy individuals who are only hoping to line their own pockets, the entire industry can suffer if the populace believes games are fixed. Therefore, the FBI will continue to pursue those who engage in this type of criminal activity."

FBI agents arrested Johnson in Houston on Saturday, and he is expected to make an initial court appearance before a magistrate in the southern district of Texas, Duffy said.

The others were arrested in San Diego and are expected to be arraigned in federal court there Tuesday, she said.