Sammy Villegas gets probation

DETROIT -- Two former University of Toledo basketball players who accepted money from a gambler to fix game scores were sentenced to probation Tuesday in a decade-old point-shaving scandal at the Ohio school.

Sammy Villegas and Anton Currie were the first of seven former Rockets who will be sentenced this spring, including three ex-football players. The case was handled in federal court in Detroit, the hometown of two gamblers and 60 miles north of campus.

"I would like to apologize to the University of Toledo," said Villegas, who received $3,000 to $4,000 from 2004 to 2006 while playing guard for the Rockets.

Villegas, 32, had faced as much as 30 months in prison but got a break. U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith followed the recommendation of prosecutors and ordered three years of probation and 100 hours of community service.

Currie, 30, was sentenced to two years of probation and 50 hours of community service. He had a smaller role than Villegas but accepted $1,000 to $2,000 in cash and groceries from the lead gambler, Ghazi "Gary" Manni.

"I accept full responsibility," said Currie, 30, of Cary, North Carolina.

Villegas quickly cooperated with the FBI and pleaded guilty to conspiracy in 2008. The case has dragged on for years for a variety of reasons. Manni had planned to go to trial until pleading guilty in December.

Manni was the "driving force" in the point-shaving scheme, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Helland told the judge.

Villegas was young and immature, and he deserves credit for helping investigators, Helland said.

In a court filing, Villegas said he got $300 to $400 when Manni won a bet on a fixed Toledo game. In February 2006, he intentionally missed two free throws and tried to hold the ball to manipulate the final score of a 78-62 victory over Central Michigan.

Villegas said he now gets $18,000 to play professional basketball for four months in Puerto Rico. Currie handles logistics for a company in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

Manni is likely to get about six years in prison when he returns to court on May 26.