July 12th, 2024

Banned NBA player Jontay Porter will be charged in betting case, court papers indicate

By Jennifer Peltz, The Associated Press on July 3, 2024.

FILE - Toronto Raptors forward Jontay Porter lookson during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls, Jan. 18, 2024, in Toronto. Court papers indicate that former Toronto Raptors player Jontay Porter will be charged with a federal felony connected to the sports betting scandal that spurred the NBA to ban him for life. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

NEW YORK (AP) – Former Toronto Raptors player Jontay Porter will be charged with a federal felony connected to the sports betting scandal that spurred the NBA to ban him for life, court papers indicate.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn filed what’s known as a criminal information sheet on Tuesday. The document doesn’t specify a court date or the charge or charges, but it does show the case is related to an existing prosecution of four men charged with scheming to cash in on tips from a player about his plans to exit two games early.

The Associated Press sent voice and email messages Wednesday to Porter’s St. Louis-based lawyer, Jeff Jensen. He said last month that Porter had been “in over his head due to a gambling addiction” but was getting treatment and cooperating with law enforcement.

Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace’s office declined to comment on the new developments.

An NBA investigation found in April that Porter tipped off bettors about his health and then claimed illness to exit at least one game, creating wins for anyone who’d bet on him to underperform expectations. Porter also gambled on NBA games in which he didn’t play, once betting against his own team, the league said.

The four men charged last month appeared in court but haven’t yet entered pleas. They’re charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and were released on bonds in various amounts.

A court complaint against those four – Ammar Awawdeh, Timothy McCormack, Mahmud Mollah and Long Phi Pham – accused them of using prior knowledge of an NBA player’s plans so that they or their relatives could place winning bets on his performance.

The complaint identified the athlete only as “Player 1,” but details about him and the game – and a quote from an NBA news release – matched up with the league’s probe into Porter.

According to the complaint, the player owed “significant gambling debts” to Awawdeh, who encouraged the athlete to settle them with a “special”: intentionally exiting games so that bettors in the know could successfully wager on him falling short of what sportsbooks figured he’d do.

“If I don’t do a special with your terms. Then it’s up,” the player responded in an encrypted message early this year, according to the complaint. “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 told some of the four already-charged defendants that he would claim health problems to take himself out of games early on Jan. 26 and March 20, the complaint says.

Porter played only briefly on those dates before leaving the court, complaining of injury or illness. In both games, his points, rebounds and assists were below the betting line for his performance.

Mollah, McCormack and a relative of Awawdeh had bet the “under” and made out, though a betting company ultimately stopped Mollah from collecting most of his more than $1 million in winnings on the March 20 game, according to the complaint.

After the NBA and others began investigating, the player messaged Pham, Mollah and Awawdeh 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, the complaint notes.

Porter’s salary for this year was around $410,000. The 24-year-old averaged 4.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 26 games this season, including five starts. He also played in 11 games for the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2020-21 season.

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