Lawyer Claims Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Lied About Gambling Probe

Written by:
Gilbert Horowitz
Published on:

Officials at the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation lied to their own agents as a means of pushing forward a controversial investigation into online gambling by athletes at both the University of Iowa and Iowa State, according to court documents obtained by the Des Moines Register.  An attorney for Iowa State wrestler Paniro Johnson made the claims as part of a motion filed this week.


Criminal charges have since been filed and the NCAA is conducting its own probe.

Johnson was one of approximately two dozen college athletes implicated in the wide ranging probe first revealed last summer and is charged with evidence tampering and felony identity theft.

Tuesday's motion by Johnson's defense attorney, Christopher Sandy, seeks records about possible misconduct by the investigators.

DCI investigators were initially told the targets of the probe were sportsbooks, not athletes, according to the filing.

From the Des Moines Register:

Sandy in the motion cites the Jan. 19 deposition of DCI Special Agent Mark Ludwick. According to Ludwick, he and other agents were dispatched May 2, 2023, to interview a number of Iowa State students. Ludwick said Special Agent in Charge Troy Nelson briefed them that the investigation was "purely administrative" and the targets were online gambling operators like FanDuel and DraftKings.

Ludwick was assigned to interview Iowa State football player Isaiah Lee, and testified he assured Lee he was not a target of the investigation and didn't face any consequences, leading Lee to tell him about his online gambling. Afterward, Ludwick said, Nelson "congratulated" him "for obtaining a confession."

"Contrary to representations made to him and other Special Agents that morning, Special Agent Ludwick realized the purpose of the investigation was criminal in nature, with the sole targets being male Division I student athletes at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University," Sandy wrote. "Special Agent Ludwick advised his superiors that he would no longer participate in the investigation, and requested reassignment."

Ludwick also testified that "numerous" DCI agents have likewise refused to participate in what they believe is an illegal investigation.

An attorney for multiple student athletes earlier in the week accused DCI agent Brian Sanger of conducting a “warrantless” investigation into underage betting on the University of Iowa and Iowa State University campuses.

Defense attorney Van Plumb claimed in a court filing that Sanger used software to check for underage betting at a University of Iowa dorm and athletics building despite not having information about any criminal activity that would have led to such a probe.

Plumb, in an email to the Des Moines Register, said the new motion has potentially wide implications.

"The assurances to Lee described in today's motion can be characterized as a promise of leniency which will be litigated in court as to whether it was a violation of all the athletes' constitutional rights," Plumb wrote.

Plumb further alleges that Sanger targeted athletes to see whether they altered their performances to make money off wagers. Plumb wrote that the DCI searched "hundreds" of people's phone activity records without a warrant as part of the investigation.

In Johnson's case, Sanger said, the wrestler placed about 1,300 bets for about $46,000 using another person's account. Sanger said Johnson bet on 25 Iowa State games.

Sixteen of those charged have already plead guilty.

- Gilbert Horowitz,

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