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Former coach, two players among 10 indicted in college basketball bribery case in San Diego

April 11, 2011 |  5:33 pm

Brandon Johnson Shocked by allegations that gamblers sought to fix basketball games by bribing players, officials at UC Riverside and the University of San Diego pledged Monday to cooperate fully with federal authorities.

An indictment unsealed Monday in San Diego alleges that 10 people were involved in a conspiracy to fix games, including a former assistant coach at USD, a star player at USD and an athlete who played at both USD and UC Riverside.

Thaddeus Brown, 32, was an assistant coach at USD. Brandon Johnson, 24, is the school's all-time scoring leader and assist maker. Brandon Dowdy, 22, played at both USD and UC Riverside.

Johnson allegedly received a bribe to influence a game in February 2010 and approached a player with a bribe offer in January 2011, after he had left the team, according to the indictment.

Brown was an assistant coach in 2006-07 and had left the university before the alleged bribe attempts mentioned in the indictment. Dowdy played at USD in the 2006-07 season and then transferred to UC Riverside, where he played from 2008-10.

According to the indictment, Brown and Dowdy solicited a player to influence a game at UC Riverside in February 2011.

U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy declined to say how many games prosecutors believe were fixed, whether the outcomes were influenced by the alleged bribes or how large the bribes were.

The scheme involved gamblers fixing games so they could make a profit by betting on those games in Las Vegas, Duffy said.

The investigation, dubbed “Hook Shot,” began a year ago as an outgrowth of a drug investigation, FBI special agent in charge Keith Slotter said, adding that the gamblers were also indicted on charges of distributing marijuana.

Johnson was arrested in Houston on Friday and will be arraigned there. He played briefly for an NBA instructional team called the Dakota Wizards.

Dowdy1 Other defendants were arrested in San Diego and will be arraigned in federal court Tuesday.

Slotter, at a morning news conference, noted that "the sporting industry in the U.S. is a mult-billion-dollar-a-year industry.

"If games are thrown by a small number of greedy individuals who are hoping to line their own pockets," he said, "the entire industry can suffer if the populace believes games are fixed."

Most of the arrests were made without incident. Steve Warda Goria, 32, one of three alleged masterminds of the bribery and drug distribution scheme, surrendered at his home in Chula Vista after a two-hour standoff with SWAT members.

Officials at both universities issued statements saying they had just learned of the allegations Monday as the indictment was being unsealed.

At UC Riverside, spokesman James Grant said, "We take this kind of thing very seriously. We're going to look into it as thoroughly as possible and cooperate thoroughly with the investigation."

At USD, a Catholic institution, President Mary Lyons sent a letter addressed to the "campus community" that read, in part:

"These are very serious allegations and the university is fully cooperating with the investigation.  Shortly after learning about the probe, USD representatives contacted the NCAA to inform them about the situation.... As a values-based institution, USD is committed to the principles of integrity, fairness and equity." 

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Top photo: San Diego basketball player Brandon Johnson, top, celebrates a December 2006 win in Berkeley. Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press

Bottom photo: Brandon Dowdy during an NCAA game in Anaheim on March 11, 2009.  Dowdy played for both USD and UC Riverside. Credit: Mark Avery / Associated Press