May 7, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Two area men indicted in sports scandal

6 ex-athletes, 2 Detroit area men accused in sports betting scandal

Detroit -- Two area businessmen and six former University of Toledo athletes were indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday in connection with a bribery and point-shaving scandal.

The businessmen, Ghazi "Gary" Manni, 52, of Sterling Heights and Mitchell Edward Karam, 76, of Troy, also were indicted along with a former professional jockey on charges they tried to fix horse-racing events at Tampa Bay Downs in Tampa, Fla.

Charged in the Toledo point-shaving case are Manni; Karam; Anton Du'ane Currie, 25, of Okemos; Harvey Lamont "Scooter" McDougle Jr., 24, of East Cleveland, Ohio; Keith Junior Triplett, 29, of Toledo; Adam Ryan Cuomo, 31, of Hagersville, Ontario; Kashif Lashon Payne, 24, of Chester, Pa.; and Quinton James Broussard, 25, of Carrollton, Texas.

The 20-count indictment alleges that between December 2004 and December 2006, Manni and Karam bribed players to influence the scores of football and basketball games. The businessmen would then bet on the games, the indictment alleges.

The indictment alleges that the fix was in on 17 University of Toledo basketball games in 2005 and 2006, during which time the businessmen wagered more than $400,000. The team went 8-9 in those 14 games in the 2005-06 season and three games in the 2006-07 season. The amounts bet on football games were not specified in the indictment.

The University of Toledo Rockets play in the Mid-American Conference.

Lawrence Burns, the university's vice-president for external affairs, said the school first learned of the allegations just over two years ago and the president conducted a study that determined the ethics of the athletics department were solid.

"We've in essence have put this for all practical purposes behind us," Burns said. "It doesn't mean we don't consider it serious, but we've moved on."

Point-shaving involves fixing games so that bettors win by betting on the "spread" set by bookmakers. For example, if Toledo is favored to win a game by four points, but players make sure they only win by three, bettors with inside knowledge win by betting against Toledo to cover the spread.

Cuomo, McDougle and Broussard played football; Triplett, Currie and Payne played basketball. Payne was the Rockets' point guard. In November 2007, he took an indefinite leave "to attend to personal issues."

"Today's charges shine a light into the dark corner of illegal sports bookmaking and reveal the unfortunate consequences that the influence of money from betting can have on the integrity of both athletes and athletic contests," said interim U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg.

The case was investigated by the FBI. It was not clear when the defendants would appear in court.

Manni's attorney, Neil Fink of Birmingham, said Manni, who worked at a Detroit grocery store, "is presumed to be innocent, and the case will have to play out in court."

Karam works in the construction industry. "We await an opportunity to vindicate him in the courtroom," said attorney Brian Legghio of Mount Clemens.

James W. Burdick, a Bloomfield Hills attorney representing McDougle, the first person charged in the investigation, said the indictment "looks pretty thin" and gives no details on actions McDougle or anyone else allegedly took to shave points off of games.

Mike Seaton, president of the Belleville-based sports betting Web site, said the Toledo situation, though serious, is "an isolated incident."

"We don't get information like this very often," Seaton said. "These players weren't living a luxurious lifestyle. I think these guys really took advantage of them."

Another ex-basketball player, Sammy Villegas, was charged with conspiracy last year and awaits a June court appearance.

Detroit News Staff Writer Mike Wilkinson contributed."> (313) 222-2069