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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Brandon Johnson, Brandon Dowdy Indicted in USD Game-Fixing Scandal

Former University of San Diego basketball players Brandon Johnson (pictured at left) and Brandon Dowdy (pictured at right), along with former assistant coach Thaddeus Brown, were indicted Friday on charges of fixing college basketball games. The indictment was unsealed Monday and it revealed that agents had been investigating a marijuana drug ring for over a year in a project known as Operation “Hook Shot.” Investigators learned the dealers were also running sports books and allegedly bribing college players to fix games.

This was about as serious of a deal as you can get. On Monday, agents executed four search warrants at various residences and one business, a convenience store, all in San Diego, and we’re talking about the FBI SWAT team storming into houses to take people into custody.

Steve Goria, aka “Shazy,” was taken into custody, and he is one of the men alleged to have been somewhat of a ring leader. At one point in 2008, he allegedly transported $100,000 worth of marijuana. The supplier to Goria and Paul Thweni (aka “Weenie”) was Jake Salter, according to the indictment records.

As for the sports-related allegations, these people are said to have placed a wager in Las Vegas on a February 2010 USD basketball game. Johnson, USD’s all-time leading scorer, is said to have been paid to fix the game. USD went 1-6 in February of 2010 and 1-5-1 against the spread, including losing to three teams against whom they were favored. Here were their outcomes from that month provided by Covers.com:

Johnson could very well have been fixing any of the first fix games that month, and my guess is it was one of those since they lost all of them. Disturbingly, that’s not all of the story.

The indictment records also allege that Goria and former USD assistant coach Thaddeus Brown met in October of 2010 to talk about fixing a game. The records also say that Johnson solicited players to fix games in January 2011 and that Dowdy did the same in March 2011.

While the only game that seems to have been fixed was one in February 2010, this unveils some serious concerns in college athletics. Players at smaller schools who have much less to lose than the ones at larger schools can be reached and influenced by gamblers and crooks looking to make money. If some players decide they have something to gain by fixing games it seriously undermines the integrity of the sport.

There’s a reason why Las Vegas sports books frequently cap the amount of money customers can wager on given events, and this is it. They try to ensure there is no fixing by limiting the stakes. Hopefully this will be another reminder for them to monitor suspicious wagers, and let’s hope players have enough integrity to avoid point-shaving in games. It’s also another reminder why betting on any game is a risky proposition.

Thanks to NBC San Diego for images and the indictment document.

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