Department of Justice -- Man tried to fix 2018 college hoops game

UniqueThis 10 October 7, 2019
12:09 PM ET

The U.S. Department of Justice unsealed an indictment last week alleging a New York man attempted to fix an NCAA Division I college basketball game in December 2018.

Benjamin Bifalco, 25, of Staten Island, New York, is accused of offering members of a college basketball team "thousands of dollars to intentionally lose the game," according to a news release from the Eastern District of New York U.S. Attorney's Office.

The school and players were not identified in the indictment.

Bifalco is charged with attempted sports bribery. Bifalco's attorney, Vincent Martinelli, declined to comment when reached by ESPN.

Bifalco was caught on a wiretap discussing the scheme with Joseph Amato Jr., one of 20 defendants who were arrested Thursday and charged with crimes in a wide-ranging investigation targeting the Colombo crime family.

On a series of intercepted calls, Bifalco laid out his plans to fix the unidentified game and encouraged Amato Jr. to place thousands of dollars in bets on the game, according to the indictment. Amato sent two texts to defendant Thomas Scorcia before the targeted game: "Ok I wouldn't trust the game I was telling u about" and "I'm not touching it personally," the government filing stated.

The indictment notes that the "favored team did not cover the spread and the bets would not have been winning ones."

College basketball has been targeted in multiple point-shaving and game-fixing scandals for decades. Most recently, former Auburn point guard Varez Ward was arrested in June 2013 on allegations that he attempted to fix a game between the Tigers and Arkansas.

"Today's indictment and arrest of an individual for attempting to fix the outcome of a December 2018 college basketball game reinforces that game-manipulation threats and risks are real and ever-present," the NCAA said in a statement. "We are actively monitoring the situation, which is a part of the criminal process, and will respond accordingly if it is determined that NCAA rules were violated."

In May 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal statute that had restricted state-sponsored sports betting to primarily Nevada. Since the ruling, legal sportsbooks have begun operating in 11 states outside of Nevada, including New York.

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