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US DoJ preps to criminally charge Porter with felony in illegal gambling scheme

| By Jill R. Dorson
Federal prosecutors in New York are preparing to charge Jontay Porter for his involvement in the illegal betting scandal that got him banned from the NBA. Porter's name appeared on a federal court docket on Wednesday (3 July), reports the New York Daily News.
Kindred Sweden penalty

Court papers were not immediately available but, according to the Daily News, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) will seek felony charges. Porter is accused of game fixing in an illegal gambling scheme. Four others have been arrested and arraigned for conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the case.

The Daily News wrote that Porter will likely be charged “through an ‘information’ document instead of an indictment, which typically happens when a suspect plans to plead guilty to the charges at the case’s onset”.

Porter allegedly removed himself from two Toronto Raptors games to allow bettors to win on “under” prop bets. DraftKings reported suspicious activity to the NBA after games on 26 January and 22 March. The four arrested gamblers wagered on those games.

Ontario police also investigating

The charges may not be the only ones that Porter will face. On 18 June, ESPN reported that the Ontario Provincial Police had opened a criminal investigation into the illegal gambling scheme. So far, no charges have been filed.

In New York, a complaint that identifies four gamblers who bet on the games in question does not name Porter. He is referred to as “Player 1” but the dates and other details match up and point to him being the player in question.

From the context of the complaint, it appears that the gamblers were betting on a legal platform in a legal US wagering state, but Porter owed one or more of them money. It is unclear if any were acting as an illegal bookmaker, although that appears to be the case. The gamblers “forced” Porter to leave the games early so they could win their bets. Text messages from the complaint suggest that Porter was paying down debts with his actions.

Three pro athletes banned for life since April

“Screenshot this… Me ammar awawdeh born 7/23/91 is forcing [Player 1] to do this,” reads a text in the affidavit. Porter allegedly replied with: “If I don’t do a special with your terms. Then it’s up. And u hate me and if I don’t get you 8k by Friday you’re coming to Toronto to beat me up.”

After the suspicious activity came to light, the NBA opened an investigation. On 17 April, commissioner Adam Silver banned Porter for life. It was the first time in the history of the NBA that a player was issued a lifetime ban for gambling.

Porter was the first of three professional athletes in the US and Canada to be banned for life from their leagues since mid-April. On 24 April the Canadian Football League banned three-time Grey Cup winner Shawn Lemmon for betting on his own team. And, on 4 June, Major League Baseball banned San Diego Padres infielder Tucupita Marcano for betting on his own team. He was playing for Pittsburgh when the betting occurred.

In both of the US cases, operators reported suspicious activity to the professional leagues. At the time that Lemmon was accused of wagering, single-event sports betting had not yet been legalised in Canada.

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