Brooklyn man arrested in connection with illegal betting scheme involving former NBA player Jontay Porter, authorities say

A Brooklyn man was charged with conspiring with three others to defraud a sports betting company by using inside information from an NBA player to successfully bet on the performance of that player, who was later banned from the league, according to a federal complaint filed this week.

Long Phi Pham is accused of conspiring with others who bet the player would underperform in a January 26 game and a March 20 game, the document signed by an FBI agent says. Pham and the others knew the player planned to withdraw from those games for purported health reasons, thus rendering those “under” proposition bets successful, the criminal complaint says.

The complaint refers to the player as “Player 1,” though after a review of court documents, CNN has determined the player is former Toronto Raptors big man Jontay Porter, who two months ago was banned for life from the NBA.

Proposition bets, also known as prop bets, can refer to wagers on individual statistics, and betting the “under” means someone bet that the stat in question would be less than a figure proposed ahead of time by a sports betting company.

Pham – who had been arrested Monday at an New York airport where he authorities say he was about to take a flight to Australia – appeared in court Tuesday. He initially was ordered detained pending trial, prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York said in a news release, noting that three co-conspirators charged in the scheme remain at large. The names of those three people were redacted in the complaint.

In a bail hearing Wednesday, a judge said Pham could be released on a $750,000 bond with home detention and electronic monitoring, once surety for the bond is secured, US attorney’s office spokesperson Danielle Hass said.

CNN has sought comment from Pham’s attorney, Michael Soshnick.

CNN also has sought comment from a representative for Porter.

“Whether on the court or in the casino, every point matters. As alleged, the defendant and his co-conspirators, as well as an NBA player, participated in a brazen, illegal betting scheme that had a corrupting influence on two games and numerous bets,” US Attorney Breon Peace said. “This prosecution serves as a warning that fraud and dishonesty in professional sports will not be tolerated and those who engage in this flagrant flouting of the law will be prosecuted.”

Complaint alleges player told gamblers he would come out of games early

The player had significant gambling debts, the court document says, citing text messages, cell phone records and wire transfer evidence. To clear those debts, Pham and others encouraged him to withdraw early from certain games so certain bets on game activities like how many points he scored would be successful, authorities allege.

Shortly before the January 26 game, the player told the defendants through a Telegram group chat he would remove himself early from the contest, claiming he was injured, according to the court document. He played just over four minutes in that contest, the court document reads.

“After playing just four minutes … and recording zero points, three rebounds and one assist, Player 1 removed himself from the game after he complained to team officials that he had reaggravated” a previous eye injury, prosecutors said.

The player communicated a similar message to the defendants before the March 20 game, telling them he would claim to be ill, according to the complaint. The documents say he played three minutes in that game.

On April 4, in a group chat with the player, Pham and other defendants, the player wrote the group “might just get hit w a rico” and asked whether the group had “delete(d) all the stuff” from their personal cell phones, according to the complaint.

The FBI agent believed “these messages refer to Player 1’s concerns that he and certain of the co-conspirators would be criminally investigated for, among other things, violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act,” known as RICO, “and needed to delete any evidence on their personal cell phones,” the agent wrote in the court document.

Porter was banned by the NBA in mid-April, with the league saying an investigation found Porter had violated betting rules.

NBA said it investigated unusual betting patterns around Porter

The NBA announced in March it had opened an investigation into anomalies involving bets pertaining to Porter after unusual betting patterns around the player emerged.

Porter had “violated league rules by disclosing confidential information to sports bettors, limiting his own participation in one or more games for betting purposes, and betting on NBA games,” NBA officials said.

When Porter’s ban was announced, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Porter was receiving the “most severe punishment.”

“There is nothing more important than protecting the integrity of NBA competition for our fans, our teams and everyone associated with our sport, which is why Jontay Porter’s blatant violations of our gaming rules are being met with the most severe punishment,” Silver said in a release.

CNN’s Jason Hanna and Nic F. Anderson contributed to this report.

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