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2 more charged in betting scandal that spurred NBA to bar Raptors' Jontay Porter for life

NEW YORK (AP) — Two more men were charged Thursday in the sports betting scandal that prompted the NBA to ban former Toronto Raptors player Jontay Porter for life.
Michael Soshnick, left, attorney for Long Phi Pham, walks out of Brooklyn Federal Court, Wednesday, June 5, 2024, in New York. Soshnick declined to comment Wednesday on the case against Pham, a New York man charged in a sports betting scandal that cost former NBA player Jontay Porter his career. Pham and three co-defendants, whose names are redacted in a Brooklyn federal court complaint, are charged with conspiring to defraud a sports betting company. Man at right is unidentified. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

NEW YORK (AP) — Two more men were charged Thursday in the sports betting scandal that prompted the NBA to ban former Toronto Raptors player Jontay Porter for life.

Timothy McCormack and Mahmud Mollah now join two other men — Long Phi Pham and a fourth whose name remains redacted in a court complaint — as defendants in a federal wire fraud case about wagers allegedly based on tips from a player about his plans to exit two games early.

Prosecutors haven't publicly named Porter in connection with the case, but game dates and other details about the “Player 1” mentioned in the court documents match up with Porter and his April banishment from the NBA. Brooklyn federal prosecutors have declined to comment on whether the former forward is under investigation.

Current contact information could not immediately be found for Porter. Messages seeking comment were sent to an agent who has represented him.

An NBA investigation found in April that he tipped off bettors about his health and then claimed illness to exit at least one game and make some wagers succeed. Porter also gambled on NBA games in which he didn’t play, once betting against his own team, the league said.

Prosecutors say McCormack, Mollah, Pham and the as-yet-unknown fourth defendant took part in a scheme to get “Player 1” to take himself off the court so that they could win bets against his performance.

And win they did, with Mollah's bets on a March 20 game netting over $1 million, according to the complaint. It said Pham, the player and the unnamed defendant were each supposed to get about a quarter of those winnings, and McCormack a 4% cut, before a betting company got suspicious and blocked Mollah from collecting most of the money.

McCormack also cleared more than $69,000 on bets on that game and another one Jan. 26, the complaint said.

His attorney, Jeffrey Chartier, said Thursday that “no case is a slam-dunk." He declined to comment on whether his client knows Porter.

Lawyers for Mollah and Pham have declined to comment on the allegations.

McCormack, 36, of New York, and Mollah, 24, of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, were granted $50,000 bond each after their arraignments Thursday. Pham, arraigned earlier this week, was released Thursday to home detention and electronic monitoring on $750,000 bond. The 38-year-old Brooklyn resident also uses the first name Bruce.

According to the complaint, “Player 1” amassed significant gambling debts by the beginning of 2024, and the unnamed defendant prodded him to clear his obligations by doing a “special” — their code for leaving certain games early to ensure the success of bets that he'd underperform expectations.

“If I don’t do a special with your terms. Then it’s up. And u hate me and if I don’t get u 8k by Friday you’re coming to Toronto to beat me up,” the player said in an encrypted message, according to the complaint.

It says he went on to tell the defendants that he planned to take himself out of the Jan. 26 game early, claiming injury.

Porter played 4 minutes and 24 seconds against the Los Angeles Clippers in that game before saying he had aggravated an eye problem. He'd scored no points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist, below what sportsbooks were expecting. That meant a payday for anyone who bet the “under.”

Then, the complaint said, the player told the defendants that he would exit the March 20 game by saying he was sick. Porter played 2 minutes and 43 seconds against the Sacramento Kings that day, finishing with no points or assists and 2 rebounds, again short of the betting line.

After the NBA and others began investigating, the player warned Pham, Mollah and the unnamed defendant via an encrypted messaging app that they “might just get hit w a rico” — an apparent reference to the common acronym for a federal racketeering charge — and asked whether they had deleted “all the stuff” from their phones, according to the complaint.

NBA players, coaches, referees and other team personnel are prohibited from betting on any of the league’s games or on events such as draft picks.

In banning Porter, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called the forward's actions “blatant.”

Jennifer Peltz, The Associated Press