The owner of a South Toledo cell phone store said yesterday that he knows both the football player and Detroit-area gambler linked by the FBI to an alleged point-shaving scheme at the University of Toledo.
But Marvin Savaya, 27, said he never introduced Ghazi "Gary" Manni to UT running back Harvey "Scooter" McDougle, even though the FBI claims Manni first met a Rockets football player at a Toledo cell phone store operated by an "associate" of his.
And McDougle, 22, who was the only person charged by the FBI for his role in the alleged point-shaving scheme, said yesterday that it was former teammate Adam Cuomo, and not Savaya, who first introduced him to Manni.
"The only time I was ever in [Savaya's] store it was just me and Marvin," McDougle said.
Charges against McDougle were dropped, but the FBI said its investigation is ongoing.
The criminal complaint filed against McDougle on March 29 accused him of conspiring with Manni, 50, to convince UT football and basketball players to fix the scores of games.
The affidavit said McDougle bet on a UT football game, engaged in point-shaving, and recruited other university football and men's basketball players to shave points.
Cuomo was a senior running back when McDougle was a freshman in the fall of 2003 - the same time the FBI said the point-shaving scheme was hatched.
McDougle, also a running back, said Cuomo introduced him to Manni as a "friend," and the introduction didn't take place in a cell phone store.
Cuomo could not be reached for comment.
Savaya, who currently owns United Wireless on North Reynolds Road but has owned stores at numerous other Toledo locations in the past several years, said that McDougle and former UT basketball star Keith Triplett frequented his store.
But Savaya said Triplett didn't start to come to his store until after the conclusion of his playing career in 2005. He also said he can't remember Manni ever being in one of his stores.
"How could I introduce them if [Manni] has never been in my store?" Savaya said.
Savaya denied reports by other media outlets that he was Manni's cousin, but the two do share similar backgrounds.
Both were born in Iraq and moved to the United States, live in the Detroit suburb of Sterling Heights, Mich., and are Chaldeans, an ancient Christian sect that has been largely persecuted in Iraq.
Savaya first said yesterday that he and Manni were "friends" and knew each other just like "a thousand other Chaldeans know each other," but later said it was possible they were distant relatives because of their backgrounds.
"I mean, we're from the same small part of Iraq, so we could be related," Savaya said. "But as far as I know, we're not blood related."
Savaya said he gave McDougle and Triplett discounts on cell phone accessories and other store items "just like I do all my customers."
McDougle said he always paid for everything at Savaya's store.
Contact Joe Vardon at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-410-5055.