A man with alleged ties to the mafia pleaded guilty to sports bribery on Thursday, in relation to a 2018 scheme to bribe college basketball players to fix games.
According to ABC News, Benjamin Bifalco’s attorney, Vincent J. Martinelli, told the court that Bifalco approached a basketball player and offered him money to lose an NCAA Division 1 game by more than the point spread. Martinelli said the player didn’t accept the bribe.
Investigators learned of the alleged crime in December 2018, and the FBI indicted about 20 people in October 2019.
Related content: Mafia Tried, Failed to Fix NCAA Basketball Game
ABC reported that the indictment said that Bifalco, a 25-year-old Staten Island man who allegedly has ties to the Colombo crime family, was “caught on an FBI wiretap telling a family capo about a plan to pay thousands of dollars to players of an unnamed team.”
An ESPN article from when the indictments were unsealed by the Eastern District of New York U.S. Attorney’s Office said that the wiretap heard Bifalco discussing the scheme with Joseph Amato Jr., who was also indicted in October 2019.
Bifalco also texted defendant Thomas Scorcia “Ok I wouldn’t trust the game I was telling u about” and “I’m not touching it personally.”
The indictment said that the scheme’s bets would have lost.
“Today’s indictment and arrest of an individual for attempting to fix the outcome of a December 2018 college basketball game reinforces that game-manipulation threats and risks are real and ever-present,” the NCAA said in October. “We are actively monitoring the situation, which is part of the criminal process, and will respond accordingly if it is determined that NCAA rules were violated.”
Bifalco was fired as Staten Island Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis’ director of community affairs after the indictment.