NFL Player Criminally Charged For Sports-Betting Infractions

August 2, 2023
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An NFL player already serving an indefinite suspension and three collegiate athletes are facing criminal charges in Iowa related to sports betting.

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An NFL player already serving an indefinite suspension and three collegiate athletes are facing criminal charges in Iowa related to sports betting.

Eyioma Uwazurike, a defensive end for the Denver Broncos, is charged with tampering with records after authorities say he used an account with a different identity to place 801 wagers on sports between February 2021 and July 2022.

A complaint filed in Story County District Court by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation alleges that Uwazurike “engaged in a scheme … to disguise his identity and manipulate online/mobile transactions.”

The charges include allegations that Uwazurike placed 32 wagers on Denver Broncos games and individual Broncos players after he was drafted to the team in April 2022, including five specific games, three in September and two in December.

Uwazurike, 25, was inactive for all but one of the games mentioned in the complaint, a December 18 game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Authorities also say Uwazurike placed four wagers on Iowa State University football games, where he played from 2016 through 2021.

The wagers were placed on two Iowa State games in 2021, one on September 11 against the University of Iowa and the second on October 2 against the University of Kansas.

The actions, authorities said, “contravened various legal and regulatory frameworks,” including violating sportsbooks terms and conditions, breaching university and NCAA policies, conflict of interest and tax implications.

In total, Uwazurike allegedly wagered more than $21,000 on the FanDuel Sportsbook account, which was under the name of Rachel Francis.

However, the wagers were placed using Uwazurike’s iPhone and the geolocation on the wagers corresponded to his “known locations,” including his university residence and areas of the university not routinely open to the public, according to the complaint.

Uwazurike was the most recent player to be suspended by the National Football League for betting on NFL games during the 2022 season, receiving an indefinite suspension of at least one year on July 24.

He would be the first major professional athlete in the United States to be criminally charged with an infraction related to sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018.

Uwazurike is one of four current and former Iowa State athletes to be criminally charged Tuesday after a state investigation.

After Uwazurike, the most prominent of the group is Hunter Dekkers, the incumbent starting quarterback of the Iowa State football team.

Dekkers, 22, is alleged to have placed 26 wagers on Iowa State sporting events, including a 2021 game against Oklahoma State University, where Dekkers was the backup quarterback.

In addition, unlike Uwazurike, Dekkers is alleged to have placed the wagers while he was under the legal betting age, having only turned 21 in July 2022.

An attorney for Dekkers released a statement denying the allegations and added that he is “in fact not guilty of that charge.”

“This charge attempts to criminalize a daily fact of American life,” said attorney Mark Weinhardt. “Millions of people share online accounts of all kinds every day.”

“This prosecution interferes with and politicized what is the business of Iowa State University and the NCAA,” he continued. “The investigation at the Iowa universities is the tip of an iceberg.”

“Thousands and thousands of college athletes place bets — usually very small ones — with shared accounts,” Weinhardt added. “That is for the schools and the NCAA to police.”

Two other current Iowa State athletes also face similar charges: football player Dodge Sauser, 21, and wrestler Paniro Johnson, 20.

Tampering with records is defined in Iowa law as an “aggravated misdemeanor” and can include an indeterminate term of up to two years in prison.

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