Nine youth football coaches were arrested for allegedly betting on the same games they coached. Three of those men posted bond Tuesday night.
According to the Broward Sheriff's Office, the arrests were the results of an 18-month investigation called "Operation Dirty Play." Investigators said coaches, team affiliates, and the president of the South Florida Youth Football League, which has more than 7,000 players, routinely set point spreads prior to each game.
Investigators told WPLG-TV the coaches organized the bets and made the point spreads on the games.
"They're organized, they banded together, and you know what, they're operating a scheme," said BSO Lt. Frank Ballonte. "That's all it is. It's organized crime at a lower level."
These nine men were arrested:
- Brandon Bivens (coach/president, Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes) is charged with felony bookmaking
- Darren Brown (coach, Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes) is charged with felony bookmaking
- Vincent Gray (coach, Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes) is charged with felony bookmaking.
- Brandon Lewis (affiliate, Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes) is charged with Felony Bookmaking.
- Brad Parker (affiliate, Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes) is charged with felony bookmaking
- La Taurus Fort (coach, NW Broward Raiders) is charged with felony bookmaking
- Willie Tindal (coach, NW Broward Raiders) is charged with felony bookmaking
- Darron Bostic (coach, Deerfield Beach Rattlers) is charged with Felony bookmaking
- Dave Small (coach, Lauderhill Lions) is charged with felony bookmaking
Gray was arrested Tuesday. The other eight were arrested Monday.
MUG SHOTS: Nine coaches arrested
BSO also served search warrants at two businesses that, investigators say, served as gambling houses: Showtime Sports and Apparel in Lauderdale Lakes and Red Carpet Kutz Barbershop in Lauderhill.
According to investigators, Bivens was the ringleader and used his barbershop in Lauderhill as a front for the gambling house.
"But he wasn't in it for the kids -- he was in it for the money. He even went to the length of setting up a fake barber shop in the City of Lauderhill that was really a bookmaking facility," said BSO Sheriff Al Lamberti.
Six of the nine men are ex-convicts with previous felony arrests for drugs, assault, and theft.
According to an ESPN "Outside the Lines" report, up to $20,000 was bet on some games. Video in the report showed men exchanging cash in the stands, on the sidelines, and at the entrance of games.
"From hundreds of dollars, ten dollars, till you hear thousands of dollars -- $10,000, $20,000 -- you may hear on a football game," said Pompano Beach Cowboys Head Coach Ron Thurston told ESPN. Thurston is also a BSO deputy.
"I was a kid. I didn't know what was going on," former player Rob Glover, now 23 years old, who took money while playing youth football, told ESPN. "People who don't know me just want to give me all kinds of cash and stuff. It was good at the time, but now I know it's a bad thing to do."
Glover didn't know it was a payoff from men who won bets on his performance.
"It was a $100 bill. He was like, 'Run it back, I'm going to give you this here. You run it back, I'm going to run down and give it to you,'" said Glover. "So, I ran it back for 99 yards, and, he ran back -- back of the end zone -- I ran by the coolers, he ran back and gave me a $100 bill."
Anyone with information about the gambling on youth sports elsewhere in South Florida is asked to call the Youth Football Hotline at 954-888-5259.