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New York man apparently linked to Jontay Porter's betting system arrested

A New York man has been arrested in connection with a series of apparently gambling-related incidents that led to Jontay Porter's suspension from the NBA.

In a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, as well as a subsequent press release, an individual identified as “Player 1” and described as a former NBA player was accused of conspiring with others to help them win special bets on his performance in games on Jan. 26 and March 20. Those details closely match aspects of the Porter case that came to light in April as a result of an NBA investigation.

Porter, who played for the Toronto Raptors, was found guilty by the NBA of “violating league rules by disclosing confidential information to sports bettors, restricting his own attendance at one or more games for betting purposes, and betting on NBA games.”

On Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced that Brooklyn resident Long Phi Pham, also known as “Bruce,” had been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Pham, 38, was reportedly arrested the day before at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport as he prepared to board a one-way flight to Australia.

In addition to his collaboration with Player 1, Pham is alleged to have worked with three other co-conspirators who were also indicted but remain at large. Their names were redacted from the indictment.

“Whether on the court or in the casino, every point counts. As alleged, the defendant and his co-conspirators, as well as an NBA player, engaged in a brazen, illegal betting scheme that corrupted two games and numerous bets,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement. “This indictment serves as a warning that cheating and dishonesty will not be tolerated in professional sports and those who engage in this blatant disregard for the law will be prosecuted.”

According to the indictment, Player 1 had accumulated “significant gambling debts” with one of the co-conspirators. That person then urged the player to “pay off those debts” by leaving games early, according to authorities, to ensure his statistics stayed below the levels set by wagering with NBA-affiliated gambling companies.

That agreement was called a “special agreement.” Tuesday's court filing said Player 1 used the messaging app Telegram to tell a co-conspirator: “If I don't make a special agreement on your terms, then it's over. And you hate me, and if I don't get you 8,000 by Friday, you're coming to Toronto to beat me up.”

Player 1 is said to have then sent a telegram to Pham and the three others informing him that he would be leaving the games on January 26 and March 20. At the Raptors games on those days, Porter cited minor ailments that led to him withdrawing after only a few minutes of play and minor deductions on the score sheet.

In the Jan. 26 game, the co-conspirators' winnings were reported as $85,000 wagered by a relative of one of them and $40,250 worth of a $7,000 bet. In each case, federal prosecutors say, the bets were parlays in which Player 1 underperformed in categories such as three-pointers and assists.

Before the game in March, Player 1 reportedly made an agreement with the group via telegram according to which he, Pham and one of the co-conspirators would each receive about 24 percent of the winnings.

“After playing only three minutes and recording zero points, three rebounds and zero assists, Player 1 withdrew from the game on March 20, claiming he was feeling ill,” the indictment states. “Several bettors, including the co-conspirators, who had placed under bets on special bets related to Player 1's performance won those bets.”

“In total,” authorities claimed, “the defendant and his co-conspirators made a profit of over one million dollars.”

The betting companies were told they noticed suspicious activity related to special bets at these games and reported it to the NBA and the International Betting Integrity Association, who in turn alerted the FBI.

On April 4, according to prosecutors, Player 1 wrote in a group chat with the co-conspirators that they “may be hit [with] a rico”, which apparently refers to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Player 1 is said to have asked if all “delete[d] all that stuff” from their phones.

A day after federal agents attempted to question a co-conspirator on May 30, Pham booked his one-way ticket to Australia, according to court documents. Among the items he was found to have with him at the airport when he was arrested were “$12,000 in cash, two cashier's checks totaling $80,000, a set of betting slips and three cell phones.”

Pham, who is reportedly in custody, could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of wire fraud.

Prosecutors did not immediately respond on Tuesday to a request for comment on whether possible charges in federal court against “Player 1” in connection with the case are also being considered.

Porter, 24, is the younger brother of Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., who went undrafted out of Missouri in 2019 before playing for the Memphis Grizzlies and the NBA G League. When the NBA issued its ban in April, Commissioner Adam Silver said Porter's “flagrant violations of our playing rules will be met with the most severe punishment.”

“While legal sports betting provides transparency that helps identify suspicious or unusual activity,” Silver added at the time, “this matter also raises important questions about the adequacy of the regulatory framework currently in place, including the types of bets offered on our games and players. Working closely with all relevant industry stakeholders, we will continue to work diligently to protect our league and our game.”

In addition, San Diego Padres infielder Tucupita Marcano became the first player since Pete Rose in 1989 to be permanently banned from betting on baseball by Major League Baseball on Tuesday. Four other players were banned for one year.