Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Joseph "Joe Vito" Mastronardo

Serious NBA betting scandal followers may recall that it was Joe Vito’s phone records that were first subpoenaed in the FBI probe which led to the successful prosecution of the scandal’s three conspirators (pro gambler Jimmy Battista, referee Tim Donaghy, and mutual friend Tommy Martino).   Until now, there has been no explanation offered for this curiosity.  In this regard, some may find this post on my primary blog of interest. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Some tidbits on what readers can expect to see in Gaming the Game

As publication nears for the new book on the career of Jimmy Battista, architect of the 2006-07 NBA betting scandal involving referee Tim Donaghy, here are some bullet items from the publisher discussing some of the things readers can expect…

GAMING THE GAME deals explicitly with numerous previously unknown aspects of the NBA betting scandal, including:

·         Pro gambler Battista’s discovery of referee Donaghy’s bets on games he was officiating, and an examination of what pro gamblers, led by Battista, were doing with this information for years before Battista and Donaghy ever agreed to their own illicit deal.
·         Details of Battista’s relationships with co-conspirators Donaghy and Martino dating back many years, including the extent of their involvement together in the betting world.
·         The unraveling of the NBA betting conspiracy, including the behind-the-scenes details of Battista’s indictment, arrest, and negotiations with federal authorities. 
·         An explanation of why federal law enforcement officials never alleged referee Donaghy fixed games, and why they came far short of concluding he didn’t.
·         The first ever discussion of why pro gamblers wagered millions on games Donaghy officiated and bet, and the compelling evidence which supports their contentions that Donaghy influenced game outcomes when his bets were at stake.

Among other non-NBA betting scandal matters also discussed in GAMING THE GAME are:
·         The trying – but ultimately and ironically fortuitous – mix of Philly mob extortion and local law enforcement heat that forced Battista’s move from Philadelphia’s suburbs to Las Vegas, without which his meteoric rise to the top of the betting world could never have occurred.
·         Inside accounts detailing the highest levels of the Las Vegas-based international betting scene.
·         A mind-boggling look into the big-time offshore sports betting infrastructure and its operations within the U.S., including the daily, secretive movement of millions of dollars.
·         A fascinating discussion of the world’s tight-knit fraternity of heavy-hitting sports gamblers.
·         The mechanics of wagering millions of dollars on a particular bet, which few people have ever understood – and even fewer could pull off (for a host of reasons beyond acquiring the funds).

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Gaming the Game press and tv/film rights inquiries

A quick note for interest parties (press and tv/film entities) in advance of the release of Gaming the Game: The Story Behind the NBA Betting Scandal and the Gambler Who Made It Happen (Barricade, 2011):

I would very much appreciate members of the press contacting me through Chuck Marsh of Penn State's University Relations Office.

Parties interested in the tv/film rights to Gaming the Game should contact Judith Karfiol at (323) 463-4800.

Thanks as always for your understanding.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Latest accusation re: Donaghy making threats/harassing adversaries

I suppose I am more tuned into this alleged pattern of Tim Donaghy's behavior than others because of my research, but I wonder if anyone else is even noticing this.  The former NBA referee is mentioned in the news today as having made threatening calls against an adversary - again.  This time, the supposed victim was none other than his publisher, VTi-Media, with whom he is at odds over royalty payments.  According to the sports betting website, "the Tampa-based VTi-group [is] saying [Donaghy] has issued threats against members of the firm...Beyond the money dispute are allegations by VTi that associates of Donaghy have threatened VTi employees with harm if the payments are not made.  'The phone calls we received were not implied threats,' says [VTi CEO Shawna] Vercher, who did not say how many threats were made. 'They were direct threats.'"  The Philadelphia Daily News added, "Vercher said that Donaghy has been contacting company employees and book vendors with 'increasingly irate and threatening calls,' demanding money for his book.  'One thing he said in particular is that, "You know I have associates in the Gambino crime family and they are active in this part of the state,"' Vercher said...Vercher says she has audio recordings of some of the alleged threats. She said VTi is gathering other evidence to support its request for a restraining order next week."

For casual followers, a refresher on similar accusations against Tim Donaghy may be useful.  In August 2008, the National Basketball Referees Association alleged Donaghy made threatening calls.  As detailed in USA Today: "The National Basketball Referees Association said a man identifying himself as Tim Donaghy has been making threatening phone calls since the former NBA referee last week was sentenced to 15 months in prison...Lamell McMorris, the NBRA's lead negotiator and spokesman, said a man identifying himself as Donaghy made calls to McMorris' Perennial Strategy Group, a consulting firm in Washington, D.C., on July 30 threatening bodily harm.  McMorris said the person threatened to 'have someone hurt' if the referees association did not stop 'spreading lies to the media.'  McMorris said a follow-up phone call by the person identifying himself as Donaghy was made to the NBRA offices, also in Washington. The person emphasized his anger toward McMorris for calling him a 'scoundrel' in a statement after Donaghy's sentencing. 'He reiterated that he was tired of "taking it" and was upset, and had info that he had not released,' McMorris said."  [A related USA Today op-ed penned by the NBRA is here.]

The August 2008 NBRA situation followed the March 2008 allegations by his wife (who had filed for divorce in September 2007).  As recounted in the New York Daily News, "Kim Donaghy sought an order of protection after a March 14 blowup with her husband, claiming in court papers that he threatened to 'knock my...head off my body.'  'He was enraged, out of control, cursing at me in front of our four children and making threats,' Kim Donaghy claimed, adding that he beat their children."  The matter was later dropped when she failed to show for a court appearance.

All of the above is in addition to the widely-publicized 2005 imbroglio with his neighbors, Pete and Lisa Mansueto.  According to the Associated Press, the Mansuetos "sued Donaghy for harassment and invasion of privacy, and accused him of vandalizing their property and stalking Lisa Mansueto. In their lawsuit, the Mansuetos also alleged that Donaghy set fire to a tractor they owned and crashed their golf cart from Radley Run Country Club into a ravine."  According to the Philadelphia Inquirer's coverage of the suit, "in the summer of 2003...Donaghy initiated 'a pattern of public harassment' that included yelling obscenities at the Mansuetos.'  The paper added, 'The suit also states that Donaghy was charged by West Goshen Township Police with disorderly conduct and harassment in June 2000.  Court records show that Donaghy had a verbal altercation with his mail carrier; however, the charges were dismissed when the carrier did not show up for a hearing.'1  According to a summary of the latter case from the New York Daily News, "Mail carrier Charles Brogan, 48, said he was making a delivery at Donaghy's home when his car knocked over a container containing bottles and cans in 2002.  'He just freaked out,' Brogan said. 'He came out screaming and hollering. . . . He tried to belittle me like I'm just a public servant and he's the big NBA ref. I guess he wanted me to fight him, but I would have lost my job.'  Police arrested Donaghy and charged him with disorderly conduct, harassment and stalking."

I should note in closing that I am also aware of Donaghy (or someone in his camp) allegedly phoning threats to a business agent who assists Donaghy's former co-conspirator Jimmy Battista.  Soon after Battista appeared on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel in November 2009, someone claiming to be CBS producer Bob Anderson made a threatening call to Battista's agent.  That call was followed a short time later by another threatening call to the agent by someone claiming to be ESPN writer/producer Mike Fish.  The calls were made immediately before Donaghy appearances on CBS (60 Minutes) and ESPN, respectively, before the public knew of Donaghy's forthcoming interviews (suggesting the caller was Donaghy or someone close to him).

1.Kathleen Brady Shea, "Referee out of bounds, suit says," Philadelphia Inquirer, January 21, 2005. (Not available online)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Insightful Donaghy interview on 95.5 The Game

Another newsworthy appearance for former NBA referee Tim Donaghy.  He appeared on 95.5 The Game (Portland) on 5/10/10, where the hosts of the Morning Sports Page had the audacity to reference analysis and official records in their insightful interview.

Dozens of other sports radio hosts around the country are apparently not aware they are allowed to do a modicum of research and to ask follow-up questions.  Among other things, the MSP hosts properly pointed out that the FBI never "concluded" Donaghy didn't fix games, and that there is no supporting evidence for his claim that he won 70% to 80% of his bets.  Donaghy, himself, says he can't reproduce his betting propositions (sides, lines, outcomes), so how could the FBI "confirm" anything re: Donaghy's betting success rate?  The FBI doesn't even pretend to know how many games he bet much less what the propositions and their results were.

Latest Donaghy allegation: FBI was "adamant" other NBA referees passed along inside info that could "help others place winning bets"

Appearing on ESPN Radio affiliate 1080AM (The Fan, Portland) on 5/10/10, former NBA referee Tim Donaghy said the following in response to a question regarding whether other referees were betting on NBA games:

"I know that the FBI agents were adamant that with the information I gave them, and through their investigation, I certainly wasn't the only one that was passing along inside information to others that could help others place winning bets."1

Reprising an earlier post with a similar theme, if it is true "FBI agents" (i.e., not just Donaghy and not merely a current or former FBI agent) believed other NBA referees were "passing along inside information to others that could help others place winning bets," that would certainly be news.  It would also suggest that cooperating witness Donaghy was somehow privy to confidential aspects of a federal investigation, possibly even as it was unfolding.  Of course, given Donaghy's problematic record of, to be polite, "misstatements" to date, all of this being true is a big "if".  Thus, it would be helpful if hosts would ask for evidence backing up Donaghy's myriad claims, and why/how he supposedly knows so much about the FBI's investigation when it is standard policy for law enforcement officials not to share criminal intelligence with cooperating witnesses.  As is often said in criminal justice circles, information dissemination with informants and cooperating witnesses is a one-way street - they provide information to authorities (not the other way around).

1 From 11:41 of the interview from the "Primetime with Isaac & Big Suke" program.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cover and brief promo text for Gaming the Game

Here is the cover, followed below with the accompanying promo text, for my forthcoming book, Gaming the Game: The Story Behind the NBA Betting Scandal and the Gambler Who Made It Happen (Barricade, 2011):
In June 2007, the FBI informed the NBA that one of its referees, Tim Donaghy, was the subject of a probe into illegal gambling.  Within months, the public knew the broad outlines of a scheme involving Donaghy betting on games he officiated with a co-conspirator, longtime Donaghy acquaintance and professional gambler Jimmy “Baba” Battista.  They were joined in the scandal by a mutual childhood friend, Tommy Martino.  By November 2008, each man had pleaded guilty to charges relating to the conspiracy, and was in federal prison.  The story was over.  Or so it seemed to be.

Researched with dozens of interviews, court documents, betting records, referee statistics, and unique access to witness statements and confidential law enforcement files, GAMING THE GAME looks inside the FBI’s investigation and beyond to provide the definitive account of the scandal.  Jimmy Battista’s remarkable decades-long bookmaking and betting career is examined, including and especially his role as architect of the widely publicized scandal.  Battista, who - unlike his co-conspirators - never spoke with federal authorities, reveals for the first time the intricate details of the scheme, most of which only he knows.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gaming the Game

I am pleased to announce my forthcoming book will be published by Barricade Books.  I've been a fan of many Barricade non-fiction true crime offerings, and this should be a great home for the new book.  I'll post the publication date when it is firmed up, along with other relevant information as warranted.  Until then, the only thing of note is the change in the book's title, which has been finalized as Gaming the Game: The Story Behind the NBA Betting Scandal and the Gambler Who Made It Happen.  More soon...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Latest Donaghy allegation: FBI believed US Attorney's Office did "favors for the NBA"

Finally, something (ostensibly) newsworthy from former NBA referee Tim Donaghy's book tour.  Following a discussion of his allegations against other referees throughout his book, Donaghy (p.206) turns to why he believes these officials were never prosecuted:
"As a former federal prosecutor, (NBA-hired investigator) Larry Pedowitz had sway, the kind of juice that provides unique access to people who make decisions about things like whether or not to pursue a prosecution.  The FBI...wouldn't play the game.  Nevertheless, the U.S. Attorney had the final say.  Further prosecutions would be a 'no-go.'"
Donaghy later adds, "Maybe political strings were being pulled to make sure I was cemented in the public's mind as the 'lone assassin.'"  We can infer what Donaghy is saying above, namely that the FBI was apparently interested in pursuing cases against other NBA referees but lost the battle with the U.S. Attorney's Office, which declined to prosecute these individuals because they had been dissuaded from doing do by a former federal prosecutor hired by the NBA.

In a recent interview on The Chris Vernon Show (Memphis, 730 Fox Sports) posted online on January 4, 2010, Donaghy went considerably further than offering his personal opinion by explicitly stating,
"There was a lot of conflict with this whole investigation between the prosecutor and the FBI because (the FBI) felt that the prosecution was doing favors for the NBA."1
If it is true "the FBI" (i.e., not just Donaghy and not merely a current or former FBI agent) believed the U.S. Attorney's Office "was doing favors for the NBA" (against the wishes of the Bureau, no less), that would certainly be news.  It would also suggest that cooperating witness Donaghy was somehow privy to confidential aspects of a federal investigation, even as it was unfolding.  Of course, given Donaghy's problematic record of, to be polite, "misstatements" to date, all of this being true is a big "if".2

1. At 7:25 of part 2 of the interview.

2. In advance of much more from me on numerous Donaghy assertions, see, for example, my earlier comments here, here, here, and here.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Some suggested research for the NBA

As a quick follow-up to my earlier post re: the Pedowitz Report, here are three things the NBA could entertain if they wanted substantive evidence of whether former referee Tim Donaghy altered game outcomes to advance his betting propositions.

1. My first suggestion, ironically, was inspired by the NBA's own inquiry into the betting scandal.  In the Pedowitz Report (pp.113-14, under "VII. Recommendations; 4. Gambling Enforcement, Detection and Deterrence; c) Gambling Monitors; and d) Statistical Screening for Gambling and Bias"), the following is respectively discussed (emphasis added):
The League has now arranged to obtain information on a regular basis from individuals and entities involved in the gambling business who can provide the League with information about unusual movements in the betting lines, rumors about things such as injury reports or referee schedules or where the “smart money” is being wagered. By flagging games or individuals for the League to investigate, these monitors may help the League detect gambling or misuse of confidential information....
Since the 2003-2004 season, the League has been collecting data on calls and non-calls for each referee. The collection system was designed by Sibson as part of the overall effort to redesign the officiating performance program. The system itself was built by the League. Although this system was developed for training and instructional purposes, we have worked with the League and Sibson to develop a prototype, proprietary system for screening games in an effort to help detect data patterns that may suggest misconduct by referees and others. Data ― including this foul call information and the movements of betting lines ― can be analyzed using various algorithms to flag patterns consistent with questionable behavior. While this system is in development, the League has already started to actively monitor several high level data-points (such as line movements) for every game for signs of potential misconduct, and certain game and betting information is distributed to League management on a daily basis. For those games that are flagged, the League has undertaken further review. In addition, the League hired Steven Angel, a former consultant with Sibson, as Senior Vice President for League Operations and Officiating to, among other things, help coordinate wagering intelligence and game screening...
This collection of gambling and referee behavior data seems prudent, as do the related assessments.  Why, though, restrict such analysis to current and future activity?  If the referee/call data has been collected since the 2003-04 season (which, interestingly, is when former referee Tim Donaghy claims he first bet on NBA games), why not perform these analyses on Donaghy's games (and others) beginning with the '03-'04 season?

An interesting footnote related to this suggestion: According to Ken White, CEO and lead oddsmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, the world's largest oddsmaking company, he researched betting trends involving Tim Donaghy and submitted his report to the NBA in the fall of 2007.  Of this situation, White told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, "They never called back to discuss it or anything."

2. I have written previously about Indiana University Business Professor Wayne L. Winston's commentary on whether Tim Donaghy fixed games.  Additionally, in his book, Mathletics, he suggests (p.247) we should:
compare the percentage of fouls Tim Donaghy called in games where the Total Line increased by at least two points to the percentage of fouls he called in all other games.*
I would add this analysis should be conducted dating back at least to the 2003-04 season.  Serious NBA scandal observers are likely noting to themselves that Donaghy claims to have never bet on totals ("over" or "under" total points in a game), and thus may be discounting Dr. Winston's suggestion.  I think Winston's proposed analysis would, in fact, be telling, for reasons I will explain in due time.

*A move of two points or more in the Total Line is generally considered a big, or unusual, move.

3. The third thing the league could do is either the most simple or the most difficult: identify and locate big-time, heavy-hitting professional gamblers, and then interview them about the NBA betting scandal.  Some of these individuals have done their own - remarkably sophisticated - assessments, and there may be considerable wisdom to gain from speaking with them.

Interesting quote (among others) from Donaghy's book

In Personal Foul, former NBA referee Tim Donaghy argues that the subjectivity of calls is a significant problem with the league's officiating.  He then states (p.238) that an additional issue concerns "the friendships and hatreds between the referees and the players, coaches, and owners."  In this regard, Donaghy adds:
Because (NBA) referees are able to make calls or ignore violations with impunity, they can hide a whole lot of love or hate for players or a team with their calls.
Couldn't this logic be used to illustrate why it would have been possible, indeed easy (assuming he is correct), for Tim Donaghy to fix games?  That is, let's take Donaghy at his word, and simply apply Donaghy's arguments to his particular situation vis-a-vis the possible altering of game outcomes in advance of his betting propositions:
Because Tim Donaghy was able to make calls or ignore violations with impunity, he could - depending on which side he bet that evening - hide a whole lot of 'love' or 'hate' for players or a team with his calls.
Reasonable, no?

A quick general comment on Donaghy's book

I could write at length about former referee Tim Donaghy's myriad claims (those made explicitly in his book and those offered during his related media appearances) on a host of topics, and may return to this possibility later.  However, let me say this generally about his book, having read it too many times.  It is remarkable (perhaps "troubling" is more apt) how often he pretends to know the opinions, beliefs, or motives of other parties, ranging from prison officials to NBA officials to federal law enforcement officials to co-conspirators and their respective defense attorneys and so on.  He has no basis beyond supposition for so much of what he writes, and there are common threads to most of his assumptions: he inflates his importance or significance; and he ascribes ill motives and/or conspiracy theories to the parties being discussed.  Concerning the latter theme, it is almost never the case that the more simplistic, less sinister possible explanation is accepted much less promoted.