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Lawyer for Jontay Porter says now-banned NBA player was ‘in over his head’ with a gambling addiction

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Jontay Porter, the former Toronto Raptors forward who was given a lifetime ban by the NBA because of a sports betting scandal, was “in over his head” with a gambling addiction, his lawyer said Friday.

Jeff Jensen, a government investigations attorney in St. Louis, also said in a statement provided to The Associated Press that Porter is cooperating with investigators.

“Jontay is a good young man with strong faith that will get him through this. He was in over his head due to a gambling addiction. He is undergoing treatment and has been fully cooperative with law enforcement,” Jensen said. It was his first statement since a league probe found Porter disclosed confidential information to sports bettors and wagered on games, including betting on the Raptors to lose.

Also Friday a fourth man was arrested in the scandal as Ammar Awawdeh, 32, turned himself in following the arrests of three co-defendants earlier this week.

A court complaint accuses Awawdeh of pressing an NBA athlete, identified only as “Player 1,” to resolve gambling debts by leaving games early. The tactic, which the two called a “special,” would guarantee a payout for anyone who bet on him to underperform in those games, according to the document.

Using an encrypted messaging app, Awawdeh wrote early this year that he was “forcing” the player to do it and told him: “Screenshot this,” the complaint said.

Awawdeh, who helps run his family’s New York City corner stores, was arraigned and released on $100,000 bond to home detention, with ankle monitoring. His lawyer, Alan Gerson, declined to comment on the allegations.

Porter is not charged in the case or named in the complaint. But details about Player 1 match up with those in an NBA probe that resulted in his lifetime ban in April. The league found that he bet on NBA games in which he didn’t play and pulled himself out of at least one so that a wager would pay over $1 million for a bettor who had been tipped off.

Awawdeh and his co-defendants — Timothy McCormack, Mahmud Mollah and Long Phi Pham — used prior knowledge of Player 1’s plans so they or their relatives could place lucrative bets on his performance in Jan. 26 and March 20 games, according to the complaint.

Porter played only briefly on those dates before leaving the court complaining of injury or illness.

A betting company ultimately stopped Mollah from collecting most of his more than $1 million in winnings on the March 20 game, according to the complaint.

The defendants, who are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, have not entered pleas. Their attorneys have declined to comment except for McCormack’s lawyer, Jeffrey Chartier, who said that “no case is a slam dunk.”

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Haigh reported from Hartford, Connecticut.

By JENNIFER PELTZ and SUSAN HAIGH
Associated Press

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