College student with Colombo ties gets one year probation for attempted sports bribery
A Colombo-connected Wagner College graduate who tried to fix an NCAA basketball game in a mob-linked scheme on Thursday received a “slap on the wrist — and a tongue-lashing from the judge.”
Benjamin Bifalco, 27, received one year probation after pleading guilty to attempted sports bribery involving a Division I sports game last year. He faced up to six months in jail.
The sports game in question was between the Wagner Seahawks and the St. John’s University Red Storm, who were heavy favorites to win the contest. The game took place on December 16th, 2018, at the Carnesecca Arena in Queens, New York.
During the virtual hearing at a Brooklyn federal court, Judge I. Leo Glasser put Bifalco on blast for letting his ego get the better of him and for his irrelevant responses. “I haven’t been able to get a straight answer from you with respect to any question that I have asked,” the judge scowled.
Bifalco demonstrated remorse for his actions, admitting that he wanted to impress a mobbed-up friend of his before expressing gratitude to the judge.
“Your Honor, you saved my life, I can’t thank you enough… You’ll never have to see my face again, I promise you that,” Bifalco explained.
A few days before the game, Bifalco was caught on a wiretap telling his childhood pal, and Colombo associate, Joseph Amato Jr. that he had “dreamed of fixing a basketball game” since he was a freshman in college.
The Amato father and son pair were charged in 2019, along with 18 others, in an unrelated loansharking, racketeering and extortion case. They pleaded not guilty.
During the wiretapped call, Bifalco said he’d distributed $7,500 to three separate Seahawks starters. In return, they would purposely lose the game and receive more money afterwards.
The college student, who had majored in finance, said he planned to bet $50,000 on the game.
“St. John’s is home, so this is why it’s gonna work… They’re gonna have the refs on their side already. Wagner’s team sucks. They honestly suck. So, if we can have three people that impact the game the most, miss free throws, bring the shot clock down to one [second]before every shot, control the pace of the game, so it’s not high scoring,” Bifalco explained on the call.
Despite these conversations, he allegedly never paid the players or wagered any money on the game. This turned out in his favor, as he would have lost his $50,000 with a St. John’s 73-58 win.
Bifalco was employed by then-Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, but was fired the day his indictment came out. Malliotakis is now a congresswoman representing Staten Island.
“My potential future loss has been great but it still does not equal the harm my actions have caused others,” Bifalco said in court.
Bifalco’s lawyer, Vincent Martinelli, added that his client now plans to attend a law school.