TOLEDO, Ohio – A former University of Toledo basketball player has been charged with point shaving, according to a federal bill of information filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
Sammy Villegas, who played basketball for four years at Toledo and has followed that with a professional career in his native Puerto Rico, is accused of shaving points in games during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.
The case comes a little more than a year after a Toledo football player was accused in a gambling scheme, though the charges against him were dropped. A university spokesman described the cases as isolated incidents.
Villegas, a guard who finished his college career in 2006, also paid another player who took part in the point-shaving ring, prosecutors said. The other player was not charged or named in the bill of information, which was filed June 30.
Gambling scandals have occasionally hit college basketball programs since the days when then-powerhouse City College was hit with accusations against three players in 1951. Scandals rocked Arizona State and Northwestern a decade ago.
Villegas was charged with conspiracy to influence sports contests by bribery and received money and other gifts in exchange for fixing games, prosecutors said. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The charges were first reported Wednesday by WUPW-TV in Toledo.
Prosecutors also didn't name who paid the players. Villegas traveled to Michigan several times to meet with another participant in the scheme, court documents said.
He intentionally missed two free throws in a game against Central State in 2006, prosecutors said.
However, the day of that game, listed in court documents as Feb. 4, 2006, Toledo beat Central Michigan 78-62. The box score from the game shows Villegas hit his only shot of the game, a 3-pointer, and missed two free throws. He did not start but played 21 minutes, the stat sheet shows.
Villegas spoke three times to a conspirator in the scheme on the afternoon before the game and made another phone call to a conspirator later that night, court documents said.
An alternate for Puerto Rico's Olympic basketball team four years ago, Villegas has played professionally the last three seasons there. He also played in the Dominican Republic this year.
Toledo running back Harvey "Scooter" McDougle Jr. was charged in April 2007 with participating in a bribery scheme to influence sporting contests. A month later, those charges were dropped, but the investigation continued.
McDougle has said he did nothing wrong and never changed how he played to affect the score in any games.
He was accused of accepting cash and a car from a Michigan gambler in return for recruiting players to affect the outcome of Rockets football and basketball games.
The gambler, who was not been charged, has been identified as 50-year-old Gary Manni of Sterling Heights. Manni has said he knew many football and basketball players at the school but they did not fix any games.
McDougle said Wednesday that he never introduced Villegas to Manni and doesn't remember seeing the two together. "Wow, wow," McDougle said when told of the charges. "I haven't the slightest idea what that's about."
Former Toledo basketball player Keith Triplett, who played three seasons with Villegas, said he also knew Manni, but was never asked to shave points.
Manni told The Blade of Toledo last September that he would ask players about upcoming games and whether they were going to win. He would place bets based on their information.
But Manni said he lost money betting on Toledo games because the players were always sure that they were going to win. Manni works at a Detroit-area grocery store, but a man who answered the phone there said he was not available.
University spokesman Lawrence Burns said the school is not conducting its own investigation.
"We obviously are concerned," he said. "We're confident that if it proves to be true, the culture of our programs are solid. These are isolated events based on individual decisions."
The school hasn't had any contact with Villegas recently, and isn't aware of any connection between the charges against him and McDougle, Burns said.
A message seeking comment was left with Villegas' attorney, John Belanger of Sterling Heights, Mich.
Villegas was the Mid-American Conference freshman of the year in 2002-03, averaging 10.8 points. That increased to 13.7 points his sophomore season, when the Rockets finished 20-11 and lost in the first round of the NIT to Marquette.
Villegas' playing time and production decreased in his final two seasons. As a senior, he averaged 19 minutes and six points.