DETROIT — A key figure in the University of Toledo point-shaving scheme pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to influence sporting contests by bribery.
Detroit businessman Mitchell Karam, one of two men who allegedly paid Toledo athletes for inside information on games or to affect performance, made the plea about one month before he and four other defendants were scheduled to go to trial. Karam, 79, also pleaded guilty to unrelated charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud. He will be sentenced June 27.
Karam’s attorney said his client "will absolutely testify" if called upon at the March 12 trial of former UT basketball players Anton Currie, Kashif Payne, and Keith Triplett, as well as gambler Ghazi "Gary" Manni. Triplett’s attorney, Ray Richards, said Karam’s plea does not affect his or his client’s intention to go forward with the trial. A pretrial is scheduled for Monday.
"I think for Mr. Karam, who’s going to be 80 years old in April, this is a significant step to sort of reconcile his life," Karam’s attorney, Brian Legghio, said. "He never thought he’d be here. He’s never been in trouble before. I think he wanted to simply come clean, resolve these issues, and help the government in its case to make amends for the wrongs that he’s committed."
Legghio said Karam has "very substantial health problems."
On May 6, 2009, an indictment handed up by a grand jury accused Manni and Karam of paying money and providing other things of value to the Rocket athletes to influence the outcome of games. The men allegedly would then bet on those games, including $407,000 on UT basketball games from November, 2005, to December, 2006.
Former UT football players Quinton Broussard, Adam Cuomo, and Harvey "Scooter" McDougle, Jr., and former Rockets basketball player Sammy Villegas have reached plea agreements and are scheduled to be sentenced March 12, the same day as the other defendants go to trial.
Karam on Monday also pleaded guilty to conspiring to fix horse races at Tampa Bay Downs in Florida and Delaware Downs in Delaware in 2005 and 2006.
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