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NBA betting scandal that ended Jontay Porter's career leads to charges against NYC man

Raptors Porter Banned Basketball
Posted at 11:01 AM, Jun 05, 2024

NEW YORK — A New York man was charged Tuesday in a sports betting scandal that spurred the NBA to ban Jontay Porter for life, with the charges marking the first known criminal fallout from the matter.

Porter is not named in the court complaint, but its specifics about “Player 1” match the details of the former Toronto Raptors player's downfall this spring. Brooklyn federal prosecutors declined to comment on whether Porter is under investigation.

But Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said the alleged co-conspirators and “Player 1” participated “in a brazen, illegal betting scheme that had a corrupting influence on two games and numerous bets.”

“Whether on the court or in the casino, every point matters,” Peace said in a statement.

The complaint says the player communicated directly with defendant Long Phi Pham and alleged co-defendants whose names are redacted.

After the NBA and others began investigating this spring, the player warned Pham and others via an encrypted messaging app April 4 that they “might just get hit w a rico” — an apparent reference to the common acronym for a federal racketeering charge — and asked whether they had deleted “all the stuff” from their phones, according to the complaint.

Current contact information for Porter could not immediately be found.

According to the complaint, the player owed “significant gambling debts” to at least one of the alleged conspirators and was encouraged to settle them by doing a “special” — strategically bowing out of games so that wagers could pay off for those in the know, who could bet on him underperforming expectations.

“If I don't do a special with your terms. Then it's up. And u hate me and if I don’t get u 8k by Friday you’re coming to Toronto to beat me up,” the player said in an encrypted message early this year, according to the complaint.

It says the player went on to tell Pham and another defendant that he planned to take himself out of a Jan. 26 game early, claiming injury. He had reported hurting an eye in another game four days earlier but was not on the injured list.

Porter played 4 minutes and 24 seconds against the Los Angeles Clippers in that game before saying he had aggravated the eye problem, exiting with no points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist — well below what sportsbooks were expecting, creating a payday for anyone who bet the “under.” One alleged conspirator netted $33,250, and another's relative garnered $75,000, according to the complaint.

Nearly two months later, it said, the player told Pham and at least one other alleged conspirator that he would claim illness to exit a March 20 game — and they agreed he would get nearly a quarter of the wagering wins.

Porter played 2 minutes and 43 seconds against the Sacramento Kings that day, finishing with no points or assists and 2 rebounds, again short of the betting line.

Some defendants made a combined total of more than $1 million on their “under” bets, but one of them was blocked from pocketing most winnings after a betting company got suspicious, the complaint says.

A message seeking comment was left for Pham's lawyer. Pham, 38, of Brooklyn, was being detained after an initial court appearance Tuesday. Accused of conspiring to defraud a sports betting company, he is due back in court Wednesday for a bail hearing.

The NBA banned Porter in April, after a league probe found that he disclosed confidential information about his health to a sports bettor and that he used someone else's account to bet on games in which he didn't play. In one multi-game parlay, he unsuccessfully bet against his own team, according to the NBA.

“There is nothing more important than protecting the integrity of NBA competition for our fans, our teams and everyone associated with our sport, which is why Jontay Porter’s blatant violations of our gaming rules are being met with the most severe punishment,” league Commissioner Adam Silver said at the time in a news release, portions of which are quoted in the complaint.

The league said it was sharing its findings with federal prosecutors.

Messages seeking comment were left Tuesday for the NBA and the Raptors.

Porter's salary for this year was around $410,000. The 24-year-old averaged 4.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 26 games this season, including five starts. He also played in 11 games for the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2020-21 season.