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FBI investigating referee Donaghy in NBA betting probe

Tim Donaghy, an NBA referee who just finished his 13th season in the league, is the subject of an FBI probe investigating alleged betting on basketball games with links to organized crime, NBA sources told the Globe today. Defense attorney John Lauro confirmed to the Associated Press that Donaghy is under investigation.

The 40-year old Donaghy, who resides in Florida, has officiated a number of playoff games but has never been present at the Finals. He worked five playoff games last season.

Donaghy made headlines in 2003 when he gave a technical to then-Blazers forward Rasheed Wallace during a game in Portland, and was then confronted by the player on the loading docks of the Rose Garden afterward. Wallace was suspended seven games for the incident.

The NBA confirmed an investigation was taking place in a statement released Friday afternoon.

"As we previously stated, we have been cooperating with the FBI in their investigation of allegations that a single NBA referee bet on NBA games that he officiated," commissioner David Stern said. "We would like to assure our fans that no amount of effort, time or personnel is being spared to assist in this investigation, to bring to justice an individual who has betrayed the most sacred trust in professional sports, and to take the necessary steps to protect against this ever happening again."

Authorities are examining whether the referee made calls to affect the point spread in games on which he or associates had wagered, an unidentified law enforcement official told the Associated Press.

The law enforcement official said the referee was aware of the investigation and had made arrangements to surrender as early as next week to face charges. The official, who did not identify the referee, is familiar with the investigation but was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.

The law enforcement official said the bets involved thousands of dollars and were made on games during the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons.

The FBI probe, which began recently, also involves allegations that the referee had connections to organized crime associates. Other arrests are expected, the official said.

The referee had a gambling problem, according to the official, and was approached by low-level mob associates through an acquaintance.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.