On October 3, 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York unsealed a series of indictments against alleged crime family La Cosa Nostra (the Colombo Family). Among those arrested were Benjamin Bifalco, an associate of the Colombo Family, and Joseph Amato Jr., the son of an alleged Colombo Family captain Joseph Amato.
Bifalco was charged with violating 18 U.S.C. Section 224(a), which makes it unlawful to influence a sporting contest “in any way, by bribery. . . .” Per the indictment, Bifalco is alleged to have “knowingly and intentionally attempt[ed] to. . . influence by bribery a sporting contest.” Magistrate Judge Vera Scanlon released Bifalco on $200,000 bond. According to the detention memo, Amato Jr. was arraigned on separate charges, which included racketeering, extortion, violent threats, and drug charges.
The investigation into the Colombo Family revealed Bifalco’s and Amato Jr.’s scheme to rig an NCAA Division I men’s basketball game. According to the memo, court approved wiretaps picked up a conversation between the two men where Bifalco “laid out his plan to fix the outcome of [a game] by offering to pay thousands of dollars to multiple members of [an unnamed] basketball team so that they would intentionally lose by a lot.” The “favored team” would have covered the spread or, in other words, win by “more than the predetermined margin of points.” Bifalco failed to “persuade Amato Jr. to place thousands of dollars on the game.”
Amato Jr. discussed the scheme to rig the game through a text message exchange with Thomas Scorcia, another Colombo Family associate. The text messages with Scorcia revealed that Amato Jr. didn’t “trust the game [he] was telling [Scorcia] about” and that Amato Jr. is not “touching [the game] personally.” The government alleged that Amato Jr.’s warning to Scorcia turned out to be “good advice given that the favored team did not cover the spread and the bets would not have been winning ones.” The U.S. Attorney’s Office noted that the “men would have lost their bets had they been placed[.]”
The NCAA released a statement noting, “game-manipulation threats and risks are ever-present.” Furthermore, the NCAA is “monitoring the situation” with plans to investigate the matter.