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FBI: San Diego game-fixing scandal brought in more than $120K

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

The Blue Jays have a worse record than any AL team except the Astros. (USATSI)
The Toreros' game-fixing scandal netted more than $120,000, according to the FBI. (USATSI)

The bribery and game-fixing case involving former San Diego Toreros star Brandon Johnson has been sewed up. Johnson was sentenced to six months in jail on March 1, a sentence he'll begin on May 31. But the FBI this week released details on its investigation and what Johnson earned while intentionally altering the outcome of final scores in certain games.

The investigation -- endearingly titled "Operation Hook Shot" -- took three years, and on the sports end, centered around Johnson and former USD coach Thaddeus Brown, who was involved in illegal gambling circles and convinced Johnson to fix. Johnson left San Diego in 2010 as the school's all-time leading scorer and assist man.

Eight people were involved in the scheme, all of whom were sentenced to jail time, the final and most recent being a bookie who was sentenced in April to two years in federal prison. The FBI's details of the case and its process of investigation, shedding more light to Johnson's role and what the game-fixing meant for him, prior to being caught, are below. The details are pretty interesting.

Brown had placed bets with the illegal gambling business operated by Garmo and two partners-in-crime. Though no longer with the team, he still had contacts among the USD players. During the 2009-2010 season, he recruited Johnson—USD's starting point guard—to influence the outcome of basketball games in exchange for money. Brown was paid handsomely for his role in the conspiracy—up to $10,000 per game.
During that season, it's believed that at least four games were “fixed” with Johnson's assistance. Perhaps the senior point guard would miss a free throw now and then or draw a technical foul. Or he would just pass up a shot—at one point Johnson was heard on electronic surveillance talking about how he wouldn't shoot at the end of a particular game because it would have cost him $1,000.
The co-conspirators routinely got together to discuss the predictions of oddsmakers and to pick which games to fix. They would then make their bets—often on the other team (USD was usually favored to win)—which would enhance their winnings even more. And with Johnson manipulating the games, they usually won their bets, netting them more than $120,000.

That's a lot of money to win on gambling, particularly on a small school that went 11-21 during Johnson's year of corruption. The electronic surveillance catching Johnson talking about possible money lost is embedded intel unlike anything the NCAA could ever hope to obtain. The report also states the University of San Diego and the NCAA were cooperative in bringing the case to a conclusion.

What stands out about this case, even a few years after the fact: It happened at San Diego. It brings to mind game-fixing happening at Toledo in the past, too. The small schools seem more ripe for compromise or scandal.

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