Iowa Sports Betting Athletes Investigation was Warrantless, Says Attorney for Accused

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The case against two former Iowa State football players who are accused of illicit sports betting took an explosive turn this week. The players’ attorney accused the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation of conducting illegal investigations.

Attorney Van Plumb represents former Iowa State football players Isaiah Lee and Eyioma Uwazurike. He says that the 2023 probe was “warrantless,” and may have impacted the privacy of innocent students.

Lee, a redshirt senior during the 2023 season, faced accusations of underage football betting, including bets against Iowa State.

Uwazurike had signed with the Denver Broncos, but the betting charges saw him suspended before the start of the 2023/24 season. He was charged with felony identity theft and was suspended indefinitely by the NFL for alleged betting on league games.

However, the DCI’s investigation, led by Special Agent Brian Sanger, has been called into question. Plumb particularly cited the use of a software platform to identify betting app users on Iowa campuses without a warrant, which brings into question issues of student privacy.

According to Plumb’s filings, Sanger allegedly continued with the investigation despite the DCI telling him not to.

Another Iowa State athlete is also contesting his charges, it was announced this week. Attorneys for suspended wrestler Paniro Johnson say that during the 2023 investigation, DCI agents told him it would be kept to the college administration if he confessed to betting in an interview. Paniro admitted his violations, and was subsequently hit with criminal charges.

Agent Sanger Accused of Warrantless Search

The contention surrounding Special Agent Sanger’s investigative methods centers on his use of Kibana, a monitoring tool, to conduct what has been described as “warrantless searches”

Sanger reportedly used the geofencing tool to monitor freshman and sophomore dormitories at Iowa universities without any concrete evidence of underage gambling.

Despite being initially advised against proceeding with the investigation, Sanger allegedly continued after identifying wagering activities by athletes at Iowa.

His blanket surveillance without probable cause brings up issues of privacy for students in their online activities.

“Special Agent Sanger chose to use software that allowed him to access people’s private information without a warrant, which raises Constitutional issues involving illegal searches and seizures,” Plumb said in a statement.

The ball players’ attorney now wants to see all documents from the investigation released to the courts. He wants any emails relating to the start of the investigation and Sanger’s alleged refusal to halt the process, a list of all the students who potentially had their privacy invaded, and the agent’s internet search history.

Wrestler’s Lawyer Exposes Wider Investigation

In a separate but related case, Iowa State wrestler Johnson’s lawyer claims the charges against his client were based on deceptive practices from DCI agents.

The filing cites a deposition in the case from DCI Agent Mark Ludwick, a state witness. Ludwick says his superiors initially told him that the investigation would be “purely administrative,” something which he relayed to Johnson during an interview.

After Johnson’s confession was used against him for criminal charges of falsifying information, Ludwick realized what was happening and requested to leave the case.

Ludwick’s deposition said he personally knew several other DCI agents who were dissatisfied with the investigation for similar reasons.

The sports betting investigation has significantly impacted Iowa State’s athletic programs. If some of the cases could be overturned, that may help restore some of its damaged reputation.

More than eight student athletes have been implicated, with repercussions including fines, suspensions, and legal charges. Notably, nine athletes were fined $645 for underage wagering and violating NCAA sports betting guidelines, including Iowa State quarterback Hunter Dekkers.

The cases were part of a wider year of betting controversies in U.S. sports in 2023, which saw a dozen NFL athletes suspended and an Alabama baseball coach fired over his betting connections.

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