DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. – Broward County authorities arrested nine men, including several coaches, in connection with an extensive youth football gambling ring South Florida. The high stakes bets included a $100,000 wager on the South Florida Youth Football League championship game.
“It’s about kids being exploited unfortunately by greedy parents and greedy grown-ups and coaches who were basically nothing more than criminals,” Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti told the Associated Press. The investigation started when ESPN investigative reporter Paula Lavigne brought officials surveillance video showing parents openly exchanging money in the stands.
The league, which has existed since 1986, has 22 teams and 6,000 players – ranging from pee wee to teenagers – in three counties. Many of the kids come from low-income homes and poor neighborhoods. The league’s website explicitly prohibits gambling, warning that if anyone is caught gambling they will be asked to leave parks.
“The SFYFL is taking a hard stand on gambling, recruiting, paying kids to play and big hits on players,” the website states. “Any spectators or certified personnel caught doing any of the above should immediately be asked to leave the park.
“All clubs, presidents, reps are advised to monitor their park and coaching staff diligently this year. ANY coaches caught will receive a lifetime ban from SFYFL. The league will be holding clubs/parks responsible if caught doing any of the above. All clubs/parks are also subject to losing home games if caught.”
According to the investigation, the coaches set point spreads but there was no evidence of points being shaved or games being thrown. There was also no evidence that the players, some as young as 9-years-old, were aware of the bets.
The alleged ringleader Brandon Bivins, also known as “Coach B”, was arrested and charged with felony bookmaking and keeping a gambling house. The other eight were charged on Monday with bookmaking and some were charged with keeping a gambling house.
Authorities allege that Bivins ran a fake barbershop named “Red Carpet Kutz”, complete with barber’s chairs and vending machines, as a front for a gambling house. When the shop was raided, they found a hallway leading to a gambling room where Bivins and others took bets on pro, college and youth games.
Authorities seized nearly $40,000 from the barbershop and another $20,000 from his home. Broward authorities said all nine of the men have extensive criminal histories, including various weapons charges.
Bivins, who was also the president of the Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes, has previously been convicted of cocaine possession, grand theft auto, and marijuana possession with intent to sell. Authorities fear that the gambling could lead to violence.
The gambling bust comes just weeks after a Miami youth football coach was arrested punching a referee in the face during a game. In another unrelated incident, a coach followed another coach home and killed his dog in front of him.
Broward County Sherriff’s Lt. Frank Ballante said that if the gambling continued that it could end “up with a human being shot over a football game and it’s not because their team lost a game or their kid didn’t score the touchdown it’s because they lost $40,000 on that play.”
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