Authorities said today they uncovered a massive gambling operation targeting youth football games in South Florida, leading them to arrest nine men, including several coaches with extensive criminal backgrounds who they say exploited kids to turn a profit. The 18-month long investigation started when ESPN journalists brought Broward County Sheriff's officials surveillance video showing parents openly exchanging money in the stands while watching their kids' tackle football games. Authorities later discovered that the stakes on pee wee games were high, with more than $100,000 wagered on the youth football championship.
Coaches routinely met before games and set point spreads, investigators said, but they do not believe the games were thrown or that coaches encouraged players not to score touchdowns or make tackles to sway the outcome. In fact, police said they had no evidence that the players were aware of the bets. After months of surveillance, digging through trash cans, and raiding two gambling houses, authorities arrested alleged ringleader Brandon Bivins, known as "Coach B" in the community, charging him with felony bookmaking and keeping a gambling house. Eight others were also charged with bookmaking, and some were charged with keeping a gambling house. (Read more Florida stories.)