Eight defendants pleaded not guilty at an arraignment in San Diego Tuesday, April 12, 2011.
New details were revealed Tuesday about several defendants in a federal investigation that involves bribing college athletes, fixing NCAA Division 1 games and distributing drugs.
Ten defendants face charges of 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.
Eight of ten defendants pleaded not guilty at an arraignment in San Diego Tuesday after being indicted on Monday.
Prosecutors revealed two of the accused, Thaddeus "T.J." Brown, 32 and Brandon Dowdy, 22, were both employees at the Stingaree nightclub in the Gaslamp District.
Stingaree management announced Tuesday both men are no longer employees of the popular nightclub.
Brown’s family was in court for his arraignment Tuesday. His attorney says Brown has a wife and children and is very well liked in the community.
"I will tell you that Mr. Brown is a hard-working family man. As the court is aware, he has extreme governmental connections here who support him," said defense attorney Vikas Bajaj.
Bajaj says Brown started a youth basketball program in La Jolla, which serves about 80 children and says they have received dozens of calls in support of Brown.
"He's a person that a lot of people look up to. He's a good role model. Unfortunately, he's been named in this indictment. So, we look forward to defending the allegations," said Bajaj.
A judge ordered Brown not to make contact with any NCAA players or former players. He’s being held on $40,000 bail.
Dowdy worked as a bouncer at Stingaree, according to prosecutors. Stingaree management released a statement that Dowdy was within his 30-day employment probationary period and has been terminated from employment effective immediately.
Dowdy is also a youth basketball coach for the La Jolla Hoopers. A judge also ordered Dowdy not to make contact with NCAA players. Bail was set at $35,000.
James Brennan, a majority partner of Stingaree and USD alum, said he was introduced to Brown by the head coach at the time. Brennan hired Brown as a security manager at Side Bar while he was still part of the coaching staff at USD.
Brennan released this statement Tuesday:
"As a proud University of San Diego alumni and ardent supporter of the school, I am deeply troubled to learn of the allegations leveled against two individuals who have also been employed by my company. Effective immediately, Mr. Dowdy, who was within his 30-day employment probationary period, has been terminated. Mr. Brown has been suspended indefinitely, without pay, pending completion of the ongoing investigation and legal proceedings.
Over the course of the past ten years, I have been proud to have the opportunity to hire dozens of USD alumni to work within my organizations. I have the utmost respect for the values and character USD instills in its students and will continue to support the university in any way I can.”
Co-defendants former Toreros basketball player Brandon Johnson, 24, and Jake Salter, 23 were not in court Tuesday. Johnson was arrested in Texas. His attorney said he would be arraigned there and then brought back to San Diego.
Defendant David Gates, 34 is a documented gang member and listed as homeless, according to prosecutors. He graduated from Morris High School. Gates is being held on $50,000 bail.
Prosecutors say Richard Garmo, 32, who owns a convenience store in Pacific Beach, placed thousands of dollars in bets as part of the alleged gambling ring. He’s being held on $40,000 bail.
Richard Thweni, 28 works at “Quick Corner,” according to prosecutors.
Paul Thweni, 26, is a professional poker player, according to prosecutors. Bail was not set for Thweni on Tuesday.
Lilian Goria, 38, works at Innovations in Native American Gambling. She’s being held on $35,000 bail.
Steven Goria, 32 also pleaded not guilty.
"At no point did he attempt to or try to throw a game, or point shave or have anything to do with point shaving. Absolutely not," said defense attorney Michael Berg.
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.
Agents executed four search warrants Monday at various residences and one business, a convenience store, in San Diego County.
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. Read more