EXCLUSIVE: NEW YORK — NBA referee Tim Donaghy made repeated phone calls to a second referee at the same time he provided inside information to professional gamblers during the course of the 2006-2007 season, according to court documents and phone records obtained by FOXNews.com.
The records show Donaghy placed 134 calls to referee Scott Foster — more than the 126 calls Donaghy made to his bookie — between October 2006 and April 2007, the period during which he has confessed to either betting on games or passing on game information to gamblers. The majority of the phone calls lasted no more than two minutes and occurred prior to and after games Donaghy officiated and on which he admits wagering.
With the exception of 150 calls Donaghy placed to Thomas Martino, to whom he says he provided “picks” to win games and who was the middleman between the disgraced referee and a bookie named James Battista, the ex-ref phoned no one more than he called Foster. During this period, the most calls Donaghy made to any other referee were 13.
It’s unclear what information was exchanged during the calls between Foster and Donaghy, who is awaiting sentencing later this month in federal court after reaching a plea deal in the case. Federal prosecutors in the case declined to comment on this report. But former federal prosecutors not involved in the investigation say the frequency and duration of the calls, as well as the days they took place, are suspicious.
The new information may call into question insistent claims by NBA Commissioner David Stern that Donaghy was a “rogue, isolated criminal” acting on his own, without the cooperation of any other referees or league officials.
Donaghy has countercharged that the NBA is rife with corruption, and has even accused some league executives of game-fixing during the playoffs. Stern has not wavered, dismissing the claims and calling Donaghy a “singing, cooperating witness” seeking a shorter prison term.
The conversations with Foster and others have led authorities to suspect the NBA betting scandal goes beyond Donaghy, sources close to the investigation told FOXNews.com.
Law enforcement sources close to the case say the FBI has investigated anyone who showed up in Donaghy’s phone records. In a statement Friday, Tim Frank, NBA Vice President of Basketball Communications, said, 'Lawrence Pedowitz's independent review is ongoing." (Pedowitz, a former Chief of the Criminal Division in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, was named by Stern last year to head the league's investigation.) The NBA says it is not aware of any further criminal investigation ongoing in the case.
Monday night, after this report appeared on FOXNews.com, Frank issued another statement: "The government had complete access to Tim Donaghy's phone records and thoroughly investigated this matter, including conducting an interview of referee Scott Foster. The government has said that they have found no evidence of criminal conduct aside from that of Mr. Donaghy. Once again, the only criminal conduct is that of Mr. Donaghy."
Calls between Foster, 41, and Donaghy, also 41, took place immediately before and after 54 of the 57 games Donaghy officiated from the beginning of the 2006-2007 season until mid-March, when his role in the gambling operation apparently ended. Records also show a vast majority of the calls came in the hours before or after games officiated by Donaghy or Foster.
Donaghy’s phone records for one of those days, Dec. 30, obtained by Fox News, reveal the following:
— 10:34 a.m. – Donaghy calls Foster.
— 10:35 a.m. – Donaghy calls another referee.
— 10:36 a.m. – Donaghy calls Martino, the “middleman” between him and his bookie.
— 10:39 a.m. – Donaghy calls Foster.
— 5:15 p.m. – Donaghy calls Martino.
— 5:23 p.m. – Donaghy calls Martino.
— 7 p.m. – Donaghy referees game between the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic. The Magic win in a rout, 97-68.
— 8 p.m. – Foster referees a game between the Toronto Raptors and the Memphis Grizzlies in Memphis. The Grizzlies win 110-104. Foster and Donaghy speak 12 minutes after the game.
— 11:27 p.m. – Foster and Donaghy speak for at least the fourth time of the day.
— 11:38 p.m. – Foster and Donaghy speak for at least the fifth time of the day.
The following day, Donaghy spoke with Foster at 1:37 p.m., for two minutes. One minute later, at 1:40 p.m., Donaghy spoke to Martino, also for two minutes.
On a number of other days:
— Donaghy placed three calls to Foster before Donaghy refereed the Jan. 19, 2007, game between the New Orleans Hornets and the San Antonio Spurs. The next day, he called Foster three more times.
— On Jan. 27, Donaghy had the day off, but he called Foster five times, each time for no more than two minutes, before Foster refereed a game that night between the Sacramento Kings and Dallas Mavericks.
— On Jan. 18, the next day, Donaghy and Foster spoke three more times.
— On Feb. 2, before Donaghy refereed a game in Boston between the Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers, he made three more calls to Foster. He called Foster again after the game, then immediately called Martino.
Only three game days do not show calls to Foster:
— Nov. 29, when the L.A. Clippers hosted Memphis;
— Jan. 22, when Donaghy was in Toronto and, according to court records, used calling cards to place all of his calls;
— Jan. 24, when Cleveland hosted Philadelphia and Donaghy used the same calling card. On Jan. 23, however, Donaghy’s cell phone records show two calls to Foster.
Donaghy might logically communicate with other referees he was officiating with, and there are many such calls in Donaghy’s records. But Donaghy and Foster did not referee a single game together during the 2006-2007 season.
Donaghy also had three other cell phone numbers registered in his name, all of which he used. But he called Foster using the phone the feds say he designated for mostly gambling-related use.
The short calls with Foster stopped abruptly in mid March 2007, when Donaghy is believed to have stopped his gambling.
FOXNews.com reached Foster at the same cell phone number found in Donaghy’s phone records and asked him if he was being investigated by the NBA, the government or anyone else. “Not that I know of,” he said. He declined to comment on his relationship with Donaghy and the nature of the calls.
When called for comment again on Thursday, a voice message announced the person at this number “is not accepting calls at this time.”
Former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson of Los Angeles has not seen the phone records, but told FOXNews.com the calls could be critical in the investigation.
“Phone records are a prosecutor’s essential tool,” Levenson said. “People don’t realize how much you can find out about a person’s life by going through their phone records. You can basically reconstruct someone’s entire day — see who they talked to, where they went, everything.”
She said investigators could look for others involved in Donaghy’s scheme “by isolating those dates where games were in question and isolating the pattern.”
Levenson said it’s important to look for corroborating evidence to support a possible connection, but even without it, the calls are still damning.
“Law cases are made by circumstantial evidence,” she said. “In most cases that’s all you have; you don’t have a confession or a video tape….”
Former federal prosecutor Edward A. McDonald, who prosecuted the Boston College point shaving trial in 1981 and is now a defense attorney, told FOXNews.com there could be ways to explain the pattern of calls between Donaghy and Foster.
“Suppose the guy has these conversations — within different circumstances, of course — and they owned a chain of restaurants together and they contact their friends who owned the restaurants in different cities, so before the game he reaches out to the friend asking for contacts in other cities to get reservations for after the game.
“Is it possible that he’s just pumping the other referee for wisdom? I don’t know what refs talk about, maybe they talk about preparing for tonight’s games,” he said. “That guy could have perfectly plausible explanation for why Donaghy was calling him.”
Donaghy pleaded guilty last August to using inside information to give winning picks to professional gamblers, who paid him when he picked correctly. He said he used a system of one-word codes to communicate his picks over his cell phone to Martino.
He provided picks both for games he refereed as well as for games he did not, and his record was 27 wins, 10 losses, according to sealed court documents obtained by FOXNews.com. He was initially paid $2,000 for each winning pick, and the amount was raised to $5,000 per winner after eight of his first 10 picks were winners.
Donaghy faces a maximum of 33 months when he’s sentenced on July 29.
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors said in court that “There is no evidence that Donaghy ever intentionally made a particular ruling during a game in order to increase the likelihood that his gambling pick would be correct. He has acknowledged, however, that he compromised his objectivity as a referee because of this personal financial interest in the outcome of NBA games, and that this personal interest might have subconsciously affected his on-court performance.”
Prosecutors had earlier praised Donaghy for his cooperation in the case, and in a May filing they asked the judge to show leniency at his sentencing. But in a more recent letter, they announced Donaghy’s cooperation did not result in any prosecutable crimes and therefore the ex-ref should not be granted leniency.
Donaghy gave his picks to Martino, 42, of Boothwyn, Pa., who would relay them to a bookie named James Battista, 43, of Phoenixville, Pa.
Martino pleaded guilty to charges of transmitting wagering information, wire fraud and obstruction of justice; he faces a maximum of 18 months in jail. Battista pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transmit wagering information; he faces a maximum prison sentence of 16 months.
Sentencing for the two had been scheduled for July 11 in Federal Court in Brooklyn, N.Y., but on Wednesday it was rescheduled for July 24.
Two other men — Jack Concannon, who placed bets for Donaghy for four seasons beginning in 2003 (officials say they split the winnings), and another bookie, Peter Ruggieri — have been named in open court as cooperating witnesses who were involved in Donaghy’s gambling. Neither has been charged.
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