A report released Thursday by an independent investigation into NBA-referee gambling fraud has come under heavy fire over the weekend. Foxnews.com and Pregame.com have both voiced skepticism over the report, saying its 116 pages—prepared by former federal prosecutor Lawrence B. Pedowitz and the law firm Wachtel, Lipton, Rose and Katz—were neither accurate nor objective.
The NBA had hoped the 14-month investigation and subsequent report would dowse suspicions of
biased officiating sparked when referee Tim Donaghy began serving a 15-month sentence on Sept. 23 in a Pensacola, Fla. minimum-security prison. Donaghy was sentenced after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and illegal transmittal of betting information across state lines. According to the report, no other referee was involved in these activities.
”On the first day we met with the FBI, they told us that Donaghy was the only one they had illegal activity concern with,” said NBA commissioner David Stern.
However, according to information an unnamed government investigator provided Foxnews.com, the FBI never told Stern that Donaghy was the only official involved. What’s more, R.J. Bell of Pregame.com said he believes Stern’s statements do not pass the “smell test.” Both sites question Donaghy’s association with and the officiating practices of fellow referee Scott Foster.
”During the 2006-07 period under investigation, 10 games refereed by Foster had lopsided enough betting on one team to move the line two points,” Bell said. “Those 10 games were undefeated against Vegas, meaning the big-money gamblers won 10 out of 10 times on Foster’s games. The odds of that happening randomly are 1,000-1 against.”
Pedowitz maintains that none of the 130-plus phone calls between Foster and Donaghy during the 2006-07 season—many of which lasted no longer than two minutes—could be attributed to illegal
”Foster told us that he frequently calls other referees and either hangs up when the call goes to voicemail or leaves a short voicemail message,” Pedowitz said in the report. “If the phone
rings five or six times and the caller then leaves a message, it is likely that the call will last over one minute and will be recorded as a two-minute call.”
The report does state that several referees broke league rules involving casino gambling and mentions that players often gambled on cards. But, it says, none of these activities are actually illegal and only warrant internal punitive action by the NBA.
Besides defending the lack of further investigation into Foster’s activities, the report also makes several recommendations for the NBA to implement moving forward. One of these would require referees to disclose all contact they have with the league’s players in order to cut down personal biases. Another proposes an anonymous, NBA-run hotline that informants could use to report fraudulent practices.
Regardless of these suggestions, the report has still ruffled flocks of feathers within the gambling and sports communities.
Donaghy’s attorney, John Lauro, has echoed these sentiments, saying, “Larry Pedowitz was brought in to basically corroborate David Stern’s PR position. What a joke.”