Attorney: Iowa Sports Betting Probe Based On ‘Warrantless Search’

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Iowa sports betting

In an explosive filing Monday, an attorney for a pair of ex-Iowa State University student-athletes charged in the ongoing Iowa sports betting probe accused a Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) agent of using a “warrantless search” to obtain evidence.

The court motion was filed by attorney Van Plumb, who represents former Cyclone football players Isaiah Lee and Eyioma Uwazurike

LSR reached out to DCI for comment, but has not heard back yet.

Why Lee, Uwazurike were charged

Both Lee and Uwazurike pleaded not guilty after being charged in the Iowa sports betting probe with identity theft and tampering with court records

Lee allegedly bet on his own team to lose in 2021. Uwazurike allegedly placed two wagers on games he played in during that same year. 

Uwazurike, who plays for the Denver Broncos, also was suspended for at least the 2023 NFL season after betting involving Denver the previous season. 

Iowa sports betting filing at a glance

The Monday court motion followed a Jan. 19 deposition of DCI agents working the probe. 

“The State’s argument that ‘DCI agents began to identify irregular online/mobile sports wagging activity originating from state organizations that regularly participate in sanctioned sports wagering contests’ was actually the result of Special Agent Brian Sanger conducting a warrantless search on Iowa and Iowa State’s campuses,” the filing reads. 

The filing says Sanger used a monitoring tool called Kibana to geofence and check into freshman and sophomore dormitories at Iowa “without any tips, complaints or evidence that underage gambling was occurring.” 

Lawyer on why Sanger is in the wrong

Sanger was able to see that online sports betting apps were open in the area. However, he could not see not specific bets or identifying information about who was using those accounts.

Sanger asked his superior to continue the investigation and was told no. 

Nevertheless, the filing says Sanger then targeted the athletic facility in a similar manner “without reasonable cause.” This time, his superiors allowed him to continue the probe. 

“The result was the indictment of a handful of Iowa’s Student Athletes even though the privacy of hundreds had been invaded,” the filing reads. “During Special Agent Sanger’s deposition on January 19, 2024, he says he cannot remember why he decided to conduct the warrantless searches but that he was concerned about things such as people infiltrating Iowa’s sports team to gain insider information or match fixing.” 

Status of Iowa sports betting cases

Nine of the 15 student-athletes charged in the case pleaded down to a lesser charge of gambling underage. The majority of the others had their charges dismissed due to lack of evidence

Gaming legal expert John Holden spoke to LSR about the ramifications of this filing. 

“These are shocking revelations that will raise significant questions about these cases moving forward,” Holden told LSR. “It also helps to put in place some details that had been missing just as to who these athletes were identified. While this very well could spell the end for the criminal investigations, schools need to focus on the underlying issue that athletes are lacking the necessary education.” 

Integrity partnership for education

In August 2023, the Big 12 Conference partnered with US Integrity. US Integrity had visited several campuses in the conference that summer to provide sports betting education to student athletes. 

“Schools also need to accept that sports gambling is not some taboo (issue) that is being engaged with by a small handful of people on campus, it is widely legal and talked about in mainstream outlets. The issue on campuses is likely much bigger than many appreciate,” Holden said.

“Unfortunately, the reliance on the same education programs and scared straight models of gambling education is not proving sufficient education. It is time for schools to move on to more effective education solutions that resonate with students and reflect the realities of where sports gambling currently is in American society.”