Gambler in Toledo sports bribery gets 70-month prison term
A rogue Detroit gambler who bribed players to fix the results of University of Toledo games was sentenced to nearly six years in prison Tuesday for corrupting college sports and committing other crimes.
U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith said he would reluctantly accept a sweeping plea deal that capped Ghazi "Gary" Manni's prison sentence at 70 months.
"He was the prime actor in those conspiracies," the judge said. "The result of his actions was not simply to degrade those sport or athletic events. He also ended up destroying the careers of the people he bribed, the athletes at the University of Toledo and at least one jockey."
Manni, 58, admits bribing players at the Ohio school from 2004 to 2006 to influence the final score, especially in basketball. A court filing lists more than $300,000 in bets, but the government said there were more.
Seven former Rockets pleaded guilty over the last few years, along with Manni and his Detroit-area gambling partner, Mitchell "Ed" Karam. The athletes were placed on probation.
Manni's sentence covers bribery at Toledo, the fixing of horse races, $1.4 million in food stamp fraud and a gun crime. As part owner of a grocery store, he and others paid cash to food stamp recipients in exchange for taking a larger amount off their debit-style card, cheating the government.
"I'm sorry to cause all this commotion, whatever you want to call it," said Manni, who will get credit for two years already spent in custody.
The judge began the hearing by suggesting that he might reject the plea agreement because the recommended sentence was too light. After a brief recess, however, he said he would stick to the deal.
"We think a 70-month sentence is a good hit," Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Helland told Goldsmith, noting that three trials could take many weeks. "There is no concern about winning any of them. It's a cost-benefit analysis."
Toledo is 60 miles south of Detroit. Players said they received money, groceries and meals from Manni to alter their performances and affect the final score, even if Toledo still won the game.
Adam Cuomo, a running back, was the first player in the conspiracy and recruited others, according to the government. Quinton Broussard received more than $2,000 in cash or goods, including $100 to fumble in the 2005 GMAC Bowl.
Basketball player Keith Triplett received or delivered to other players between $2,000 and $5,000. He was Toledo's leading scorer during three of his four seasons.
Karam will be sentenced on June 30.