With three more figures in the sports bribery case that impacted the San Diego basketball program pleading guilty, more details have emerged in regards to how the fixing of games took place.
Steve Goria, Richard Garmo and Paul Thweni entered guilty pleas according to Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune, admitting to both bribing former USD point guard Brandon Johnson and attempting to bribe Ken Rancifer, one of Johnson’s teammates.
Their pleas mean that six of the ten defendants in the case have plead guilty, and Goria, Garmo and Thweni are scheduled to be sentenced (maximum of five years) on October 12.
The case began in 2009 and had nothing to do with the fixing of games, as the FBI was looking into marijuana trafficking and illegal sports bookmaking.
But in the following year an informant alerted the FBI to these three making money off of fixed basketball games during the 2009-10 college basketball season.
[Then USD assistant T.J.] Brown, according to the informant, was paid $10,000 to fix at least two USD games that season. The informant accompanied Thweni to Las Vegas to place bets on a Feb. 25, 2010, game against Loyola Marymount using $40,000 worth of winning tickets from an earlier USD game. When Loyola Marymount won, the bettors claimed to have made $70,000.
At a meeting a few days later at a San Diego restaurant, one of the affidavits said an FBI audio recording picked up Garmo saying: “The last game we bet, he (Brown) told me to bet the house.”
According to the story, Garmo noted in a meeting with the FBI that it was important that they get the point guard to go along with the plan, as he’s the one who ultimately controls the action.
That’s where Johnson, who left San Diego as the school’s all-time leading scorer, factored into the equation.
Goria, Garmo and Thweni all admitted in their plea agreements to placing bets on the Loyola Marymount game at Las Vegas casinos and having “influenced or ‘fixed’ the outcome of the basketball game by paying money as a bribe to Brandon Johnson,” a senior point guard on the team.
Oddsmakers had USD as a 3½-point favorite in the 2010 game against visiting Loyola Marymount at the Jenny Craig Pavilion, and with four minutes remaining the Toreros led 65-62. They lost 72-69.
Johnson, who 12 days earlier had become the school’s all-time leading scorer, made just one of six shots and had five turnovers, including a missed shot and a turnover in the final minute.
For his part Johnson has adamantly denied altering the result of a game, but he did admit to taking $2,500 to $3,000 from Brown for his part in the scheme.