Former referee in NBA match-fixing probe admits guilt

AFP , NEW YORK

Fri, Aug 17, 2007 - Page 23

A former National Basketball Association referee pleaded guilty on Wednesday to federal charges in a betting scandal in which he gambled on games that he officiated, prosecutors said.

Tim Donaghy earlier on Wednesday turned himself over to authorities and admitted his role in the match-fixing scheme that rocked the NBA and threatens the integrity of results from the past two years.

The 40-year-old referee pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to transmit gambling information. He faces up to 25 years in jail for the scheme, which was believed to have Mafia ties.

"The participation of an official of one of the world's premier sports leagues in an illegal betting scheme involving his own sport demonstrates the corrupting allure of easy money," US attorney Roslynn Mauskopf said.

Donaghy resigned from the league on July 9 after an FBI investigation led to accusations that he gambled on NBA games and provided confidential information about games to others who could make wagers based on the inside knowledge.

Two men allegedly involved in the betting scandal, Thomas Martino and James "Baba" or "Sheep" Battista, were also charged with conspiracy and fraud over the case.

NBA commissioner David Stern said the league would continue to examine its security procedures to try and prevent such a match-fixing mess to happen again.

"As expected, former NBA referee Tim Donaghy pleaded guilty today to betting on NBA games, including games in which he officiated, and providing confidential information to others who bet on NBA games," Stern said.