Richard Kuhn, 26, a former Boston College Basketball player, was indicted by a federal grand jury yesterday on charges of participating in a point-shaving scheme during the 1978-1979 season.
Indicted with Kuhn in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, N.Y., on charges of racketeering, bribery and crossing state lines to commit a crime were: James (Jimmy the Gent) Burke, 50, a reputed organized crime leader; Anthony Perla, 31, of Pittsburgh; Rocco Perla (Anthony's brother and a high school classmate of Kuhn's) 26 and Paul Mazzei, 37, serving a prison sentence for a narcotics conviction.
Burke is serving time in a federal prison for a 1974 extortion conviction and allegedly masterminded a $5.8 million Lufthansa Airline cargo holdup in 1978.
The five were charged with trying to fix the point spread of six Boston College games to benefit gamblers who were given inside information that enabled them to reap huge profits from carefully placed bets.
The defendants pleaded not guilty. Kuhn, a former forward on the team, and the Perla brothers were released on $50,000 bond each, and Burke and Mazzei were returned to prison.
The trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 23 in Brooklyn, where most of the meetings between the defendants were alleged to have taken place. If convicted, each defendant would face a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail and a $25,000 fine.
In a press conference following the announcement of the indictments, Kenneth Walton, deputy director of the FBI's New York office, said that the Boston College point-shaving investigation was continuing as part of U.S. Organized Crime Strike Force operations and that more indictments were expected.
The alleged game-fixing scheme began to unfold last year when Henry Hill, 34, who was convicted with Burke for extortion, was arrested rested on unrelated drug charges. Hill voluntarily turned informant in return for immunity from prosecution in the BC case.
In a February Sports Illustrated story, Hill said that 10 Boston College basketball games were fixed with the cooperation of three players: Kuhn; Jim Sweeney, team co-captain; and Ernie Cobb, the squad's star. Hill, who is a close friend of Burke, claimed that the players were paid $1,000 to $2,500 a game to keep the points within predetermined parameters.
Walton told reporters that Hill and Burke hatched the plan during a 1978 meeting in Pittsburge with Mazzei; that Mazzei knew Anthony Perla, whose brother Rocco had gone to school with Kuhn; and that Rocco Perla contacted Kuhn, who agreed to take part in the scheme and enlist the aid of other players.
Hill told the FBI that they were successful in seve games, unsuccessful in three, and admitted that he won $75,000 to $100,000 in bets as a result of the point-shaving, according to Sports Illustrated.
Sweeney and Cobb could not be reached for comment yesterday. Sweeney reportedly has contended that, although he was asked to participate in the scheme and refused, he failed to notify authorities because he had been threatened. Cobb, who averaged 21.3 points during the 1978-1979 season, has denied that he participated in any game-fixing.
The special prosecutor in the case, U.S. Attorney Edward McDonald, confirmed yesterday that Hill was an unindicted coconspirator and was under the protection of the federal witness protection program.
The indictment cited BC games in the 1978-79 season against Providence College on Dec. 6, Harvard on Dec. 16, UCLA on Dec. 23, Fordham on Feb. 3, St. John's on Feb. 6 and Holy Cross on Feb. 10.
William J. Flynn, Boston College athletic director, said yesterday that he was saddened to learn of Kuhn's indictment.
"Boston College is extremely sorry that one of its former basketball players has been indicted for something like this," Flynn said. "However, we are going to entertain the presumption that he is innocent."
Flynn also noted that BC was continuing to work with investigators on the case and had received assurances that no college employe is suspected of wrongdoing.