Pleas expected in Toledo scandal

DETROIT -- At least four former athletes charged in a point-fixing scheme at Ohio's University of Toledo are expected to plead guilty, a federal prosecutor in Detroit said Wednesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Morris made the disclosure during a brief court hearing more than a year after a grand jury indicted eight people on conspiracy charges, including six former Toledo football and basketball players.

Also charged are Detroit-area businessmen Ghazi "Gary" Manni and Mitchell "Ed" Karam, who are accused of betting $407,000 on Toledo basketball games in 2005 and 2006 and paying players to shave points or control the final score.

Morris said he's expecting plea deals with former football players Adam Cuomo, Harvey "Scooter" McDougle Jr. and Quinton Broussard, and former basketball player Anton Currie.

Defense lawyers acknowledged that agreements have been signed or are in the works. No dates for guilty pleas were set Wednesday.

Manni and Karam are expected to go on trial in late spring or summer. Former Toledo basketball players Kashif Payne and Keith Triplett are also charged.

"It's kind of taken a toll on Keith but he's championing his innocence," defense lawyer Ray Richards said in an interview after the hearing, which none of the ex-players attended.

In a separate but related case in 2008, former Toledo basketball player Sammy Villegas pleaded guilty to conspiring to fix games during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. He still is awaiting his sentence.

The government's evidence includes secretly recorded phone calls involving Karam, Manni and Toledo players.

The FBI has said Cuomo, a running back from Hagersville, Ontario, was a key contact for the gamblers and first met Manni through the owner of a phone shop in Toledo, 60 miles south of Detroit. He apparently made incriminating statements to investigators.

"Cuomo stated that he was the University of Toledo player who started the point-shaving scheme with Gary. ... He brought 'numerous' University of Toledo athletes from the football and basketball teams" to the Detroit area to meet the gambler, FBI agent Stephen Ferrari said in a court document unsealed in 2009.

The case is being handled in Detroit because that's where the alleged conspiracy was hatched.