First criminal charges laid in Jontay Porter NBA betting case

Man charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud

A Brooklyn man has been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the first criminal charges laid relating to the Jontay Porter betting scandal.

The NBA banned Toronto Raptors rotation player Porter for life in April after an investigation found he had revealed confidential information about his health to a sports bettor and used someone else’s account to bet on games in which he didn’t play. The league said that in one parlay, he unsuccessfully bet against his own team.

Long Phi “Bruce” Pham is accused of being one of a number of people who conspired with Porter on what Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace called “a brazen, illegal betting scheme that had a corrupting influence on two games and numerous bets.” Two other alleged conspirators, Timothy McCormack and Mahmud Mollah, were subsequently named and charged.

Pham is described in the court complaint as being one of the world’s top 1% of poker players. The FBI said they tried to investigate Pham and he was subsequently arrested at New York’s JFK airport on Monday. He reportedly had on him a one-way ticket to Australia, around $12,000 USD ($16,400 CAD) in cash, two cashier’s checks worth a combined $80,000 USD ($110,000 CAD), numerous betting slips and three cellphones on him when he was arrested.

Pham is accused of conspiring to defraud a sports betting company and was due back in court Wednesday for a bail hearing. If convicted, he faces a potential maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.

Porter was not charged or even directly named in the court complaint, instead monikered “Player 1” by the documentation. Brooklyn federal prosecutors haven’t confirmed whether Porter is under investigation at this time.

Alleged co-conspirators netted big payouts on Porter props

The complaint says that “Player 1” told Pham and another alleged co-defendant that he planned to leave a Jan. 26 game early, claiming injury. That day’s game against the LA Clippers, in which Porter played fewer than five minutes and scored no points, was one of two games involving Porter that initially came under the spotlight for suspected suspicious betting activity. An alleged conspirator and the relative of another each won five-figure payouts on four- or five-figure bets relating to the player’s performance hitting the under.

The second game investigated was a March 20 fixture against the Sacramento Kings in which Porter played 2 minutes and 43 seconds and ended with no points or assists and two rebounds, again hitting his player prop under. The court complaint alleges that the player told Pham and at least one other alleged conspirator that he would claim illness to exit a March 20 game in return for nearly a quarter of the betting wins.

It adds that although some defendants raked in a combined total of more than $1 million, the activity was flagged as suspicious by a sportsbook. Whether or not that sportsbook was DraftKings, which discussed the betting activity with ESPN at the time of the first reporting on this case, is uncertain.

The filing says that “Player 1” communicated directly with Pham and other alleged co-defendants whose names are redacted and was urged to settle his “significant gambling debts” to at least one of those people and by leaving games early so that prop bets on his performance would pay out.

The player allegedly sent an encrypted message warning Pham and others that they “might just get hit w a rico [a federal racketeering charge]” and asked if they had deleted “all the stuff” from their phones.

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