9 Charged in Fla. Youth Football Gambling Ring

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  • DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Authorities said Tuesday they uncovered a massive gambling operation targeting youth football games in South Florida, leading them to arrest nine men, including several coaches with extensive criminal backgrounds who they say exploited kids to turn a profit.

    The 18-month long investigation started when ESPN journalists brought Broward County Sheriff's officials surveillance video showing parents openly exchanging money in the stands while watching their kids' tackle football games. Authorities later uncovered the stakes on pee wee games were high, with more than $100,000 wagered on the youth football championship.

    Coaches routinely met before games and set point spreads, investigators said, but they do not believe the games were thrown or that coaches encouraged players not to complete a touchdown in order to control the outcome. Authorities said they had no evidence that the players were aware of the bets.

    "It's about kids being exploited unfortunately by greedy parents and greedy grown-ups and coaches who were basically nothing more than criminals," Sheriff Al Lamberti said.

    After months of surveillance, digging through trash cans and raiding two gambling houses, authorities arrested alleged ringleader Brandon Bivins, known as 'Coach B' in the community, charging him with felony bookmaking and keeping a gambling house. Eight others were also charged Monday with bookmaking and some were charged with keeping a gambling house.

    It's unclear if Bivins has an attorney. A phone message and email sent to one of the other suspect's attorneys was not immediately returned Tuesday.

    Authorities said the suspects have direct ties to the South Florida Youth Football League and several have extensive criminal histories. Bivins has been convicted of cocaine possession, grand theft auto, and marijuana possession with intent to sell.

    According to the league's website, it has 22 clubs and 6,000 players, ranging from pee wee to teens, in three counties. Many of the children come from impoverished neighborhoods.

    Emails and phone calls to several officers in the league were not immediately returned Tuesday.

    The website says the sole purpose of the league "is to benefit children" and instill wholesome values.

    Bold print on the league's website warns that anyone taking bets on games will be asked to leave. "The SFYFL is taking a hard stand on gambling, recruiting, paying kids to play and big hits on players."

    Perhaps more disturbing than the gambling operation was the extensive criminal background of six coaches, authorities said.

    An affidavit claims Bivins ran a fake barbershop, complete with barber stations and vending machines, as a front for a gambling house. But behind what appeared to be a closet door was a narrow hallway leading to a seedy gambling room where Bivins and others took bets on professional, college and youth games behind conspicuously dark tinted windows.

    An informant placed numerous bets at Red Carpet Kutz Barbershop and another gambling front, Showtime Sports, during the investigation, according to the affidavit.

    Authorities said they seized nearly $40,000 from a drop safe at one of the storefronts and took another $20,000 from Bivins' home. They believe 'Coach B' was skimming off the top of the bets.

    "(Bivins has) been to Florida state prison. He's out and he's coaching youth football," Lt. Frank Ballante said.

    Bivins was the president of the Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes, one of the most successful teams, and oversaw the coaches. He also interacted with the players, Ballante said.

    Deerfield Beach City officials ramped up their background screening process for youth coaches about 18-months ago when authorities told them about the investigation, but each city is in charge of setting its own ordinances and they vary widely on the issue.

    Authorities worry that betting on games can lead to violence and other crimes. The gambling bust comes after a Miami youth football coach was arrested earlier this month for punching a referee in the face during a game. In another South Florida city, a coach followed another coach home and killed his dog in front of him, Ballante said.

    Those incidents were not related to the gambling busts, but authorities said it's a lesson for cities to ramp up their background check ordinances.

    Ballante warned gambling could end "up with a human being being shot over a football game and it's not because their team lost a game or their kid didn't score the touchdown it's because they lost $40,000 on that play."

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    8 thoughts on “9 Charged in Fla. Youth Football Gambling Ring

    1. @cindycruz
      I downheartedly agree that evil is rampant upon this great planet…and it does not matter where you come from…it’s just a matter of where you are going…I know the odds are stacked against our kids…but I just choose to find the positive in everything…my husband and I both come from single parent homes and we beat those odds…that’s why we always stress to the kids that we help in our community…don’t let anyone dictate who you are…and please don’t let anyone else define your future…that’s the only place where I disagree with you…I just choose positivity…but you are absolutely correct…men need to be responsible, good role models to their kids…just imagine how much better kids would perform!

      Take it easy girl and have a great weekend…I have more fires to put out!

    2. @rhemasplace
      Evil lurks every where and there is plenty of troubled kids that come from good two parents families also. As you stated there are also plenty of kids who succeed without a good and caring Father. Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against the kids who grow up with an absent father. We both can agree that men need to be responsible and be good role models for their kids.

    3. Tom why always show the bad people in our Black community? Why Tom ?
      The rest of us 95% are law abiding good people , why can’t you show the good Black Business people, Doctors, Lawyers, Entertainers, why not Tom?
      Negativity creates Low Self Esteem. The Black People I know don’t steal , rape, Kill or act as clowns. 99.9% Of the Black Brothers and sisters do not beat up women, have never been in Jail , their kids go to school ,and are in colleges, where do you get all these negative people from?
      Why are you showing all these evil people, You are giving our enemies ammunition to shoot us down with.

    4. @cindycruz

      Your point is taken and I know the stats…and I will ask again…”So what is the reasoning or motivation behind the actions of serial killers, rapists, arsonists, thieves, racists and the like that come from supposed well-to-do, loving, two-parent homes????” The stats overwhelmingly show this too. And, I do agree that fathers need to step up to the plate when it comes to their children…but for every 1 child that suffers from the absence or neglect of a father…there is another one who makes it.

    5. @rhemasplace
      Actually the statistics of children who grew up without a caring/supportive Father show with a high relative factor that they will be troubled in numerous ways. Poor academics, criminal behavoir, and early sexual behavior leading to teenage pregnancies and ultimately poverty. I will say it again, alot of the troubles our children have in this world are because men do not step up and take responsibility.

    6. So what is the reasoning or motivation behind the actions of serial killers, rapists, arsonists, thieves, racists and the like that come from supposed well-to-do, loving, two-parent homes???? There are a lot of men who grow up without fathers and turn out to be outstanding pillars of society…what a surprise!

    7. 9 men who probably had absent/ bad fathers and now they are being bad fathers …. what a surprise.
      Men need to step up and start being a good example for our children and not some thug criminal

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