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September 25, 1999

More game-fixing evidence

Copyright © 1999 by Dan E. Moldea

     The most controversial allegation in my 1989 book, Interference:  How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football (William Morrow), is that over seventy NFL games have been fixed.  Despite the evidence, league officials have long claimed that no professional football game has ever been successfully fixed since the creation of the NFL in 1920.  Of course, any admission to the contrary would jeopardize the public's perception of "the integrity of the game."

     The following is the untold story of how I developed the information about eight of these allegedly fixed games:

     Several years ago, I received a copy of an FBI-302 report, which detailed the FBI's investigation of NFL referees and game officials.  The report stated that "two or three referees" had been paid $100,000 by a New York Mafia figure for their participation in each of eight allegedly fixed games--which I list on page 308 of Interference.  The referees' alleged job was to ensure that the unnamed mob figure covered the spread and, thus, won his bets.  The referees' names were not mentioned in the FBI report.

     As I state in my book, the FBI eventually dropped its probe, because the evidence of game-fixing was, supposedly, inconclusive.  In addition, the bureau's principal informant was caught trying to sell the same information to the IRS.

     During my own interview with the informant, who had passed a polygraph test, he identified the two referees.

     Even though I had the FBI report, the results of the informant's polygraph examination, and the names of the two game officials, I decided not to publish this material without further corroboration.  My FBI sources, who had provided a considerable amount of help to me during my research for Interference, refused to comment about this particular game-fixing investigation for my book.  I never fully understood why.

     Subsequently, I contacted nationally-known oddsmaker, Bobby Martin, who said that he had had similar game-fixing suspicions about at least one NFL game official, whom he named.  This referee was one of the two identified by the informant.  Martin told me that he had also shared this information with Las Vegas gambler Lem Banker, who confirmed to me both Martin's personal investigation of the referee, as well as his name.  Both Martin and Banker told me that they could prove that unnatural money had shown up on the referee's games--but they could not prove that any of the games had been actually fixed.

     I then contacted Leo Halper, who was involved in Project Layoff, which included the IRS's investigation of game-fixing in the NFL.  He told me that the FBI informant, who had also sold his information to the IRS, had given him the outcomes of the eight fixed games, along with the names of the two referees, in advance of the games being played.

     Halper added that the referees had made their own bets on the eight fixed games through beards in Las Vegas.  The initial IRS probe included surveillance on one of the beards, who reportedly bet so much money on these games that the betting line actually moved in response to the vast amount of money wagered.  According to Halper, this wagering activity occurred at the Barbary Coast's sports book on the Las Vegas Strip.

     Also, during my research, I received a correspondence from one of the beards involved with the two NFL referees.  He confirmed, in writing, the fixes and named the same two referees.

     But the IRS probe, according to the Halper, collapsed when agency chiefs--despite the reliability of the informant's information--refused to authorize a full-scale federal investigation, even though the IRS had concluded that the games had, indeed, been fixed.  (Rumors persist that agency officials--who had received the outcomes of NFL games in advance of the contests--were scoring their own betting coups.)

     On the basis of the overwhelming evidence--the FBI report, my interviews with Martin and Banker, statements made to me by the IRS agent in charge of the investigation, the letter from the beard allegedly involved with the officials, and the statements made by the FBI/IRS informant, who had passed a polygraph examination--I published the material about the eight fixed games in Interference, hoping that a subsequent official investigation would answer the lingering questions about this matter.

     However, upon the advice of my personal attorney, I decided not to publish the names of the two referees.

     On August 23, 1989, after the publication of Interference, I was contacted by an intermediary, who told me that NFL league officials wanted to know, among other things, the names of the two referees.  On August 25, I met with Warren Welsh, the director of NFL Security, in Las Vegas.  I provided him with:  a) the FBI report, b) the names of the two NFL referees, and c) the names of all but one of my confidential sources during this particular investigation.  The exception was the beard, who asked that his name not be disclosed.  The other sources had given me permission to reveal their names and information to Welsh.

     On ABC's Nightline on September 11, which was hosted by Jeff Greenfield and focused on gambling in the NFL, I appeared on the program along with Warren Welsh and Las Vegas oddsmaker Michael Roxborough.  The question of these eight allegedly fixed games was raised during the program.

     According to the official Nightline transcript, the exchange between Welsh and me was precipitated after I claimed that there was evidence that no fewer than 70 NFL games had been fixed.  The transcript states:

          Greenfield:  . . . I can't forbear from picking up on the point you [Moldea] said earlier.  Are you talking about games that have been fixed within recent history, recent NFL history, last 10 years or so?

          Moldea:  I'm saying that the last games I have where there's allegations of fixed games were 10 years ago.  There were eight games that were allegedly fixed by two referees who were paid $100,000 each for each game by a New York Mafia guy, and their job was to basically make sure that that Mafia guy covered the spread.

          Greenfield:  Mr. Welsh, quickly, what do you have to say about those allegations?  Have you looked at Mr. Moldea's book?  Can you respond to them?

          Welsh:  I have, and I would like to say that in contact with law enforcement sources, that the informant that Mr. Moldea refers to is term a pathological liar by the FBI.

          Moldea:  Well, the IRS has a different feeling about him, Warren, and basically they viewed him as being credible, and
that--the IRS believed that the investigation itself concluded that the games were indeed fixed.  They had the information in advance of the games on those eight fixed games.

     In 1992, Halper of the IRS sat down for a sworn deposition during a separate investigation of game-fixing in the NFL, which had developed in the midst of a civil litigation.  Halper was specifically questioned about the accuracy of what I had written in my book:

          Question:  So you say you knew Dan.  That is Dan Moldea?

          Halper:  Yes.

          Question:  Where did you know him from?

          Halper:  He had contacted me when he was doing research for his book.  That's how I knew him. . .

          Question:  Did you read his book?

          Halper:  I have read most of it.

          Question:  What did you think of his book from a professional point of view?

          Halper:  I thought it was well done. . . .

          Question:  Does he mention in the book the 1979 football season, the games that were fixed?

          Halper:  Yes.

          Question:  Did you read that particular component in the book?

          Halper:  Yes.

          Question:  Is the book accurate in its detailing or referring to the events of the 1979 football season?

          Answer:  Yes.

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