La Jolla JV basketball coach named in federal indictment

TJ Brown is seen at a La Jolla Hoopers practice at the high school earlier this year. Photo: Phil Dailey
TJ Brown is seen at a La Jolla Hoopers practice at the high school earlier this year. Photo: Phil Dailey

By Phil Dailey

Staff Writer

Thaddeus Brown, who is better known as TJ to La Jollans, was one of 10 defendants named in a federal indictment unsealed Monday in connection with an alleged ring that offered bribes to college basketball players to fix games.

Federal prosecutors in San Diego said the organizers conspired to bribe players to alter the outcome of games so the defendants could profit by betting on games in Las Vegas. The indictment alleges the group of running an illegal sports bookmaking operation and distributing marijuana.

Former University of San Diego players Brandon Johnson and Brandon Dowdy were also named in the indictment. They were not named on the bookmaking or marijuana segments of the indictment.

Brown previously was an assistant coach at the university and has coached at the La Jolla High School junior varsity basketball team for the past three years. In an e-mail, Principal Dana Shelburne said Monday afternoon that Brown "will be placed on administrative leave while the investigation runs its course."

Brown has been the director of the La Jolla Hoopers, a local youth basketball organization, four four years. The teams won four division championships this past winter.

Brown played college basketball at Texas A&M but an injury derailed his Division I career. He then to transfered to Emporia State University, a Division II school, to continue playing basketball. He graduate with a degree in business administration in 2002.

He started his coaching career at USD as a volunteer before being promoted to head team manager. He then was promoted to a full-time assistant. When former USD head coach Brad Holland was fired at the end of the 2007 season, Brown was not retained.

According to the indictment, Johnson — while he was the starting point guard for USD — took a bribe to influence the result of a game in February 2010. U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy would not be specific on which game was involved.

The indictment also alleges that Johnson, after leaving from USD in January 2011 -— solicited an individual to affect the outcome of USD basketball games.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Keith Slotter said the investigation, dubbed "Operation Hookshot," began more than a year ago and started out as a drug probe.

Slotter said he didn't know how many basketball games were affected by the illegal bookmaking activity.

Authorities said USD is cooperating in the investigation.

"This is not an indictment on an outstanding academic institution,'' Slotter said. "This is not an indictment against USD."

Of the 10 defendants named in the indictment, eight, including Johnson, have been arrested, Duffy said.

She alleged that the three lead defendants in the case — San Diego residents Steve Warda Goria, Paul Joseph Thweni and Richard Garmo — orchestrated multiple schemes, including the sports bribery scheme involving Johnson, Brown and former USD player Brandon Dowdy, who played for the school during the 2006-2007 season and later for UC Riverside.

Brown coached at USD the same year Dowdy played there. The indictment alleges that in February 2011, Brown and Dowdy solicited an individual to affect the outcome of a college basketball game at UCR. Johnson, 24, was arrested Saturday in Texas and was expected to be arraigned today.

Eight others were expected to make their first appearance in San Diego federal court on Tuesday, Duffy said.

— City News Service contributed to this report.



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