Former Colombo Mobster: Some Games are Fixed

In the November 2007 issue of the New York Times sports magazine PLAY, Pat Jordan interviews former mobster Michael Franseze. (Franseze has been in the media plenty before, has his own website, and even a channel on YouTube where you can see him say that he has fixed college games.)

After spending seven years in prison, Franseze now spends his days talking about his re-birth as a Christian, promoting his book, and talking to athletes about the dangers of gambling.

Here he is telling Jordan how a college basketball game could be fixed:

You look for a kid already in trouble with a bookmaker, and he can't pay. So you tell him he's got three choices: bring the money tomorrow, help us out by shaving points -- or else. Also, we know through the grapevine what players hang around bars. We schmooze with them, learn their background through research. We befriend them, tell them, "Listen, you're a senior, a pretty good basketball player, but you're not gonna be a lottery pick."

Then you ask them how much money they got in their pocket. They're almost always broke. So you tell them, "The arena is filled every night, your school makes money off you and what do you have? Bad grades. You're not going to the pros, so why leave college broke? Use your head. We'll put some money in your pocket."

What about pro sports - how much fixing goes on there?
There's not as much, unless you got a friend who's a pro, who'll do you a favor. Where pros get in trouble is they're not smart. They get to Vegas, get beat, hang with the wrong company, maybe you get them in a compromising position.

Franseze goes on to say that getting a referee is ideal -- and the more fouls they call the better.

He also says that of the team sports, basketball is the easiest to fix, because one player is a fifth of the team (instead of a ninth in baseball, or an eleventh in football). That means you can get to one star player and influence the entire game. In baseball, you could theoretically get to a pitcher, but underperforming pitchers tend to get yanked by managers. In basketball, though, the best players get to keep playing no matter how poorly they perform.

What's interesting here is that forensic economists have found signs suggesting the same trends Franseze has described from the inside -- some point shaving in the NCAA, and somewhat less in the NBA (more).