New York Man Indicted for Trying to Fix College Basketball Game

  • Defendant tried to arrange basketball game-fixing with organized crime family
  • Investigators heard defendant discussing plans on a wiretapped phone
  • College team and targeted players not identified, possible bet placement method unknown
basketball going through hoop in an indoor court
Benjamin Bifalco has been indicted for attempting to pay college basketball players to intentionally lose a game as part of a mob fix. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Man involved with organized crime figures

An indictment unsealed by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York last week revealed that a man mob had attempted to work with the mob to fix a college basketball game last year. 25-year-old Benjamin Bifalco of Staten Island, New York is charged with attempted sports bribery for his role in the scheme.

Bifalco’s participation was discovered as part of a wiretap investigation into the dealings of the infamous Colombo organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra.

Bifalco’s participation was discovered as part of a wiretap investigation

A total of 20 defendants, including members of the crime family, were charged with a number of crimes, including racketeering, extortion, and loansharking, in addition to the attempted sports bribery.

Mobsters did not bet on game

No specifics of the bribery scheme were divulged in any of the three indictments. Neither the teams in the game in question, nor the players targeted by Bifalco, were named. All that was said in Bifalco’s one-paragraph indictment was that he “did knowingly and intentionally attempt” to influence a sporting event through bribery.

he offered members of a college basketball team thousands of dollars to intentionally lose the game

The press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office said he “offered members of a college basketball team thousands of dollars to intentionally lose the game.”

According to ESPN.com, Bifalco was heard on a federal wiretap discussing a scheme to fix a December 2018 NCAA basketball game with Joseph Amato, Jr. Amato is a Colombo family associate and was one of the 20 defendants named in the indictments. Bifalco urged Amato to bet significant sums of money on the game.

Amato sounded like he wasn’t sold on the idea, which may explain why the charge is only “attempted” sports bribery. He texted another defendant, Thomas Scorcia, saying “Ok I wouldn’t trust the game I was telling u about” and “I’m not touching it personally.”

It is unknown where the bets would have been placed. It is unlikely that this would have been carried out at a regulated sportsbook, either brick-and-mortar or online, because they would have been easily traceable. According to the indictment, the bets would have lost.

First match fix attempt unveiled since PASPA overturned

This is the first time an attempt to fix a sporting event has been brought to light since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in May 2018. It is thought the legalization of sports betting makes it easier to weed out fishy wagering activity because of the regulations and paper trails put in place.

Bifalco’s attempt at sports bribery was arguably unusual because he wanted players to intentionally lose a basketball game. In the rare instances of basketball betting scandals in the U.S., the generally preferred method of game-fixing has been point-shaving.

Through this method, a player only has to affect the score of the game in relation to the spread, rather than try to lose completely. This way of fixing a game is more difficult to notice than throwing a game.