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Ex-NBA ref expected to plead guilty today

NEW YORK -- Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy planned to plead guilty in federal court today to charges he bet on games he officiated, a person familiar with the betting scandal probe said.

Donaghy was to surrender at Brooklyn federal court, the person said on condition of anonymity because charges hadn't been made public yet.

NBA spokesman Tim Frank told the AP that the league was informed yesterday that Donaghy would plead today but was given no further information.

Donaghy's attorney, John Lauro, and federal prosecutors declined to comment. NBA commissioner David Stern said last month the referee's lawyer told the league his client was contemplating a plea.

Besides probing whether he placed his own wagers, investigators examined whether Donaghy provided inside information, including referees' schedules. The referee allegedly had a gambling problem and was approached by low-level mob associates through an acquaintance.

The FBI first contacted the NBA June 20 to talk about a referee alleged to be gambling on games, and the sides met June 21, Stern said last month. Donaghy resigned July 9 after 13 years as a referee, though Stern said he would have fired him sooner but was told it might affect the investigation.

Stern blamed a "rogue, isolated criminal" for the betting scandal that has devastated the league and threatened the credibility of every referee.

Donaghy was rated in the top tier of officials, Stern said, and there was nothing suspicious about the frequency of his foul calls. He was assigned to work the second round of the playoffs, with his last NBA game coming during the Phoenix-San Antonio Western Conference semifinal.

No other NBA officials or players were expected to be involved in the scandal. Others outside the NBA are expected to be charged.

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