Former USD Athletes, Coach Tied to Bribery Sting

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCSanDiego/USD
    The defendants include Brandon Johnson, 24, the school's leader in several key categories.

    An indictment unsealed Monday accuses 10 defendants, including a former University of San Diego assistant basketball coach and two former USD players, of bribing players, fixing games, illegal bookmaking and distributing marijuana.

    The defendants include former USD assistant coach Thaddeus Brown, 32, and two former players including Brandon Johnson, 24, the school's leader in several key categories and Brandon Dowdy, 22, who played during the 2006-2007 season.

    Steven Goria, 32, Paul Thweni, 26, Richard Garmo, 32, Richard Thweni, 28, David Gates, 34, Lilian Goria, 32, and Jake Salter, 23, were also named in the indictment.

    Operation “Hook Shot” was a one-year investigation that at first focused on marijuana but soon expanded once the allegations of bribery and sports betting were uncovered.

    Former USD Athletes, Coach Tied to Bribery Sting

    [DGO] Former USD Athletes, Coach Tied to Bribery Sting
    10 defendants allegedly conspired to bribe basketball players to alter the outcome of games so the defendants could profit by betting on games at Las Vegas casinos, according to the indictment.

    Agents executed four search warrants Monday at various residences and one business, a convenience store, in San Diego County.

    One of those warrants was served just after 9.30 a.m. in the 2700 block of Mobley St. in Serra Mesa. Steven Goria, 32, was taken into custody by an FBI SWAT team at 10.40 a.m.

    The indictment, handed up by a federal grand jury April 8, alleges the defendants enriched themselves by operating an illegal sports bookmaking business and distributing marijuana.

    With the criminal proceeds, the defendants allegedly conspired to bribe NCAA Div 1 college basketball players to alter the outcome of games so the defendants could profit by betting on games at Las Vegas casinos, according to the indictment.

    The alleged crimes affected the 2009 to 2010 season.

    The indictment alleges that in Feb. 2011, Brown and Dowdy solicited an individual to affect the outcome of a college basketball game at the University of California Riverside, according to court documents.

    FBI agents arrested Johnson in Houston, TX on Saturday. The USD starting point guard in the 2009-2010 and the school's all-time leading scorer, was intricately involved in the illegal gambling business and the sports bribery schemes, prosecutors allege.

    Johnson had left USD and was a member of the Dakota Wizards in the NBA developmental league when he allegedly solicited a fix with another university, according to prosecutors.

    Steve Goria, Paul Thweni and Garmo, of San Diego County allegedly ran a number of criminal schemes including managing sports books, collecting outstanding gambling debt and distributing marijuana.

    The defendants used an offshore Internet service to track the bets, prosecutors allege.
    Salter is accused of supplying the marijuana.

    Prosecutors met with USD campus officials about the charges in this case Monday morning. The school is rightly concerned and is cooperating with authorities.

    "This is not an indictment on the University of San Diego but rather a few individuals who chose to do the wrong thing who were affiliated with the university," said one federal investigator.

    Federal investigators said that there is no evidence that Thaddeus Brown was involved in any illegal activity while a coach at USD during the 2006-2007 season.

    “As a values-based institution, USD is committed to the principles of integrity, fairness and equity. While the investigation continues, we will do everything we can to support our campus community, allowing students and faculty to focus their attention on a successful end of another academic year,” wrote USD President Mary E. Lyons, Ph.D. in a campus statement.

    The 10 defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit sports bribery, to operate an illegal sports bookmaking service and to distribute marijuana, according to authorities with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI.

    Steven Goria was arrested in San Diego in January, 2008 as a fugitive from justice in Nevada, according to court documents. Goria had allegedly skipped bail in Las Vegas where he had been arrested for passing a bad check.

    He skipped bail again here in San Diego on the same charge but the case was eventually dismissed, according to the court documents.

    Read the full indictment here.