Ex-NBA player Jontay Porter pleads guilty in gambling scandal case

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Former NBA player Jontay Porter on Wednesday pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in a federal criminal case tied to the betting scandal that got him banned from the league earlier this year.

The former Toronto Raptors center entered the plea at his arraignment in a New York federal court and was set to be released on bond of $250,000.

His lawyer had previously said that Porter was cooperating with authorities while being treated for a gambling addiction.

Court papers showed the case against Porter is related to an ongoing prosecution of four other men. The four have been arraigned on a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud but haven’t yet entered any pleas.

Those men are charged with scheming to profit off tips from an NBA player that he was going to exit two games early. They or their relatives used the knowledge to place big-winning bets that the athlete would do poorly in those games, according to a court complaint filed when they were charged in June.

The complaint didn’t name the player, but details matched up with an NBA investigation that spurred Porter’s banishment from the league this spring. The league found that he gambled on NBA games and gave bettors confidential information about his health.

In court Wednesday, Porter said he agreed to withdraw early from games to get out from under large gambling debts so he and co-conspirators could win bets on his performance. “I know what I did was wrong, unlawful, and I am deeply sorry,” he said.

Porter is set to be sentenced Dec. 18. He could face from just under three and a half years in prison to a little over four years. He’s also likely to be assessed hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution, plus potential fines.

According to the complaint, one of the four men pressed the player to clear up gambling debts by prematurely pulling out of games so that bets on him underperforming would pay off.

In a message responding to the man’s instructions, the player wrote that if he didn’t carry out the plan, “u hate me and if I don’t get u 8k by Friday you’re coming to Toronto to beat me up.”

After tipping off some of the men, the player claimed injury or illness and withdrew from Jan. 26 and March 20 games after only minutes on the court, the complaint said.

Porter played only briefly on those dates before complaining he was hurt or sick and exiting the games. His points, rebounds and assists in both games fell below sportsbooks’ expectations.

After the NBA and others began investigating, the player messaged some of the men that they “might just get hit w a rico,” an apparent reference to the common acronym for a federal racketeering charge, according to the complaint against them. It said the player also asked the men whether they had deleted “all the stuff” from their phones.

The NBA’s probe found that Porter not only exited at least one game for gamblers’ sake but also wagered on NBA games in which he didn’t play. He once bet against his own team, the league said.

Porter averaged 4.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 26 games this season, including five starts. He also played in 11 games for the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2020-21 season.

The 24-year-old’s NBA salary was about $410,000.

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