Deep in debt from gambling, Stevin Smith asked Arizona State teammate Isaac Burton Jr. in 1994 if he would miss some free throws against Oregon State, if needed, to shave points.
That conspiracy turned into what federal officials Friday called one of the nation’s worst sports gambling scandals.
In an agreement struck with federal prosecutors, Smith, 25, and Burton, 24, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. The two former Sun Devils admitted taking the bribes for fixing four games in 1994.
The FBI also announced a 72-count indictment against four men accused of conspiring to fix games. More indictments are expected.
Indicted in the scandal were sometime bookmaker Benny Silman, 26, of San Diego, a former partner in a cappuccino stand at America West Arena; Joseph Gagliano Jr., 29, a Phoenix investment advisor; and alleged bookmakers Dominic Mangiamele, 61, of Mount Prospect, Ill., and his son, Joseph Mangiamele, 36, of Arlington Heights, Ill.
The charges against them include sports bribery, conspiracy to commit sports bribery, interstate transportation and aid of racketeering.
“This is one of the most significant sports bribery conspiracies involving college athletes in the country, and I must stress the investigation is not over,” said Bruce Gephardt, head of the FBI’s Phoenix office.
The NCAA said there would be no sanctions against Arizona State.
“To date, there is no information . . . indicating that the institution knew or should have known” about the fixed games, Bill Saum, the NCAA’s agent and gambling issues representative, said at a news conference on the Arizona State campus. “What occurred here today is the result of a societal problem, not just an Arizona State problem.”
The conspiracy charge against Smith, the school’s No. 2 career scorer, and Burton carries a possible five-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine. But Gephardt said they would likely receive a lighter sentence in return for testimony against others.
Potential penalties for the four others on the 72 counts could total hundreds of years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.
The FBI arrested the Mangiameles on Thursday, and they were released on bond Friday. Summonses were issued for Silman and Gagliano, and a Dec. 17 court date set for all four in Phoenix.
Silman’s attorney declined comment. Reached at his home, Gagliano said he was “hanging in there” but declined to discuss the charges. A call to a Mangiamele family business was not returned, and their home phone numbers are unlisted.
After the pleas were announced, Burton was suspended indefinitely from the Continental Basketball Assn., where he had been playing for the Quad City Thunder.
Smith has been playing pro basketball in France. Neither his agent nor his attorney returned calls.
No court date was set for Burton and Smith.
Former ASU basketball coach Bill Frieder, who said the scandal forced him to resign Sept. 10, decried the amount of gambling on American campuses.
“The NCAA statistics are startling: 25% of the college football and basketball student-athletes who have been interviewed are betting on games,” he said. “Gambling is an addiction of the ‘90s. It’s everywhere, and I think we’ve got a huge problem out there that needs to be dealt with.”