The story of the alleged fixing of basketball games at Boston College begins in Pittsburgh. There Paul Mazzei, a convicted drug dealer also under indictment on Long Island on another drug case, set in motion a series of events tht allegedly led at least two Boston College Basketball players to shave points during the 1978-1979 season.
Mazzei, 37, is now under investigation by the U.S. Organized Crime Strike Force in Brooklyn in connection with the alleged game fixing.The players under investigation, according to sources familiar with the case, are Ernie Cobb of Stamford, Conn., who was the leading scorer on the 1978-79 Boston College team, and Rick Kuhn, a reserve forward on that team from Pittsburg.
Henry Hill, a convicted felon and associate of Mazzei's now in the federal protection program as a witness in this and other cases, has told prosecutors that five to seven games during the '78-'79 season were fixed, according to sources.Hill has said that he paid each player between $1,000 and $2,000 per game, according to sources. And federal prosecutors have been told by another informant, Judy Wicks, formerly of Pittsburgh, that she accompanied Hill and Mazzei to Boston to fix a Boston College game during that season. She, like Hill is under protection of authorities after she recieved death threats.
One of the games federal investigators are looking into is a December 1978 game with Harvard in the Boston Garden, according to sources. Boston College was unbeaten in six games at the time and Harvard had a 3-3 record. The betting line on the game, established in Las Vegas, was 12 1/2 points, with Boston College the favorite. Federal investigators have been told that the men behind the alleged fixing placed heavy bets on Harvard, with the knowledge that Boston Collegewould not win by 13 points or more.
In that game, Cobb made six of 15 shots and scored 12 points, after coming into the game with a 23.7 average. He turned the ball over to Harvard on mistakes six times. Kuhn played fewer than 12 minutes in the game and did not score.
Boston College won by only three points, 86-83, meaning that those who bet on Harvard with the point spread won.
Sources close to the federal investigation have suggested that a third player might be involved in the alleged shaving of points. Sources said investigation is in its early stages and it was not certain whether the probe would lead to any crimnal charges.
Mazzei could not be reached for comment today. His attorney in Pittsburgh, Charles F. Scarlata, acknowledged the federal investigation into the alleged fixing and conceded that Mazzei's name had surfaced in the investigation. He declined to say if Mazzei was the target of the inverstigation. "Needless to say, neither he nor I have any comment," Scarlata said.
Kuhn in two separate interviews, has denied any participation in fixing games while at Boston College."Nothing like that ever went on while I was a senior on the '78-'79 team. He also denied knowledge of the federal investigation and said he does not know either Mazzei or Hill. "This is all pretty crazy," he said.
Efforts to reach Cobb the last three days have been unseccessful.
Officials at Boston College acknowledged investigation Thursday night.This afternoon, they issued a statement expressing shock at the allegations and said they have promised to cooperate with the federal investigation. Kevin Duffy, vice president of student affairs, said, "It is hoped that whatever information is developed from the Justice Department inquiry will result in formal charges of illegal activities."
University officials said they were notified of the investigation last fall and have been told by prosecutors that no current players are involved.
In his statement, Boston College basketball Coach Tom Davis expressed disappointment. "When the Justice Department first talked to us about the allegations," Davis said, "I thought back as to whether ther were any game in which I felt any player gave less that his best effort. Even with the benefit of hindsight, I can think of none.
University officals say they have been requested by the Justice Department not to comment on details of the investigation. Current members of the team said they were not even aware that one was beign conducted "Nobody knows anything about this," said Vinnie Caraher, a senior from East Meadow, NY., who was a sophmore on the '78-'79 team.
The fixing allegations were revealed during an unrelated federal investigation into the December theft of $5.8 million from the Lufthansa cargo terminal at New York's Kennedy International Airport. The holdup was the largest cash theft in the nation's history and remains largely unsolved.
A major break in the Lufthansa case came when Hill, 34, decided to cooperate with authorities after he was indicted on drug charges in Nassau County, New York, last April. Hilland several others were accused of participating in a multimillion dollar drug ring that involved the sales of heroin, cocaine and other drugs for more than a year beginning in January 1979.
Nassau County police discovered that one of Hill's confederates in the alleged drug operation was Mazzei.
Mazzei was previously convicted on drug charges in federal court in Pittsburgh in 1975.
Nassau County officials allege that their investigation turned up evidence that Hill would supply Mazzei with heroin and in turn Mazzei would provide Hill with cocaine and Quaaludes. Another participant in the alleged drug operation was Wicks, a woman Mazzei introuduced to Hill, according to one law engorcement source. Wicks, Hill and Mazzei are awaiting trial on the drug charges in Nassau County. Wicks, who is also now cooperating with authorities, has corroborated parts of Hill's account of the alleged fixing of basketball games, sources said.