Boston College Point Shaving Scandal
During the 1978 – 79 NCAA basketball season Rocco and Tony Perla, small time hoods in Pittsburgh linked with associates of the Lucchese organized crime family to bribe members of the Boston College basketball team to manipulate point spreads. The scheme was used in nine games and involved at least three Boston College players. The scheme involved the Perlas, Paul Mazzei, Henry Hill and Jimmy Burke, with the approval of Lucchese family capo Paul Vario. Hill and Burke were made famous through the film Goodfellas and the point shaving is mentioned in the film in passing.
The scheme involved using players to either lose within the spread or win by more than the spread, and did not require the players to actually throw the game, a feature which Hill later said made it easier to sell to the players. How much the players were paid has never been revealed. The scheme began in December 1978, and continued through February 10, 1979. Of the nine games in which the players were directed to manipulate the score, the gamblers won five times, lost three times (although the first loss was of a game in which they were testing the feasibility of the plan) and twice pushed, meaning that the amount bet was returned.
Although the mobsters went to some lengths to ensure that the bets made were scattered among several bookmakers, enough money was bet to shift the spread on one occasion as other bookmakers and lines-makers noticed unusual betting activity. The scheme came to an end when Jimmy Burke lost what Hill later said was $50,000 on that year’s BC-Holy Cross game, when the players closed to within the spread, but were supposed to lose by more than seven. They lost by two. Burke wanted to retaliate against the players according to Henry Hill, but in the end nothing happened.
When Hill turned into a government informant in 1980, as part of the deal he made with the authorities he revealed the full nature of the point-shaving scheme and identified all of the participants. Two Boston College players who had been in on the scheme, James Sweeney and Joseph Beaulieu, agreed to testify. Sweeney had participated in the scheme, Beaulieu claimed that he had been approached by Rick Kuhn, another player through which Henry Hill had run the scheme. In the end Sweeney was not charged for his role, although he was not granted immunity to obtain his testimony as some believe.
Rick Kuhn was sentenced to 10 years, later reduced to two and one third years. Burke was given 20 years. Paul Mazzei was sentenced to ten years, as was Tony Perla, and Rocco Perla was given four years. It had been Rocco Perla, a high school friend of Rick Kuhn, who initially suggested the scheme to Kuhn, who had agreed to a “bonus” when the gamblers won their bets, reported as being $2,500 per game. Henry Hill was not prosecuted for his involvement in the scheme.