Nine youth football coaches or associates in South Florida are facing felony charges in connection with a system of rampant, elaborate and high-dollar gambling on little league football.
The charges are the result of an almost 18-month investigation by the Broward Sheriff’s Office into gambling on youth football, an investigation called “Operation Dirty Play” prompted by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” show that exposed flagrant betting during games in the South Florida Youth Football League.
Those arrested on felony bookmaking charges were: Brandon Bivins, Darren Brown, Vincent Gray, Brandon Lewis, Brad Parker, La Taurus Fort, Willie Tindal, Darron Bostic and Dave Small.
Six of the nine facing charges — men who coached boys ages 5 to 15 — are ex-convicts with a history of felony drug, assault and theft charges. If found guilty of felony bookmaking, essentially organized gambling, each could be facing up to five years in prison.
Though the games featured little boys, the gamblers made big bets, said Det. Solomon Barnes, whose confidential informant, along with other undercover deputies, placed bets on youth football during the police investigation. Barnes said $20,000 was bet in a rivalry game between the Northwest Broward Raiders and the Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes a few weeks ago. And up to $100,000 would be bet on the youth leagues’ final championship games of the season, he said.
“They take all innocence away from the game when they involve themselves in these criminal acts,” the detective said. “And it’s just mind-blowing what we discovered in this investigation.”
The initial “Outside the Lines” story in May 2011 showed people exchanging money in the stands and along the sidelines in plain view of fans, children and even law enforcement. One coach swapped cash with other men at a playoff game. When “Outside the Lines” returned last December — after league officials said they would work to deter gambling — the flagrant betting seemed to be gone. But as detectives would later learn, the publicity only pushed the illegal wagering further underground.
Not only was the gambling in full force, Barnes said, but the coaches were the ones promoting and organizing the bets and setting point spreads on the games. The gambling involved multiple youth football leagues.
The detective said he and others witnessed two coaches taking bets on the sidelines of a game involving their own teams, another having collected a wad of cash that he waved in front of the players indicating how much was riding on them. Dozens of men crowded into a backroom gambling parlor where a special window serves those wanting to bet on youth games.