9 charged in youth football gambling ring in South Florida

By Kelli Kennedy

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 31 2012 12:11 a.m. MDT

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — Authorities said Tuesday they uncovered a massive gambling operation targeting youth football games in South Florida, leading them to arrest nine men, including several coaches with extensive criminal backgrounds who they say exploited kids to turn a profit.

The 18-month long investigation started when ESPN journalists brought Broward County Sheriff's officials surveillance video showing parents openly exchanging money in the stands while watching their kids' tackle football games. Authorities later uncovered the stakes on pee wee games were high, with more than $100,000 wagered on the youth football championship.

Coaches routinely met before games and set point spreads, investigators said, but they do not believe the games were thrown or that coaches encouraged players not to complete a touchdown in order to control the outcome. Authorities said they had no evidence that the players were aware of the bets.

Authorities said the suspects have direct ties to the South Florida Youth Football League and several have extensive criminal histories.

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