Guilty Plea Signals End to Iowa’s College Betting Probe

Posted on: March 19, 2024, 04:18h. 

Last updated on: March 20, 2024, 12:40h.

A University of Iowa men’s basketball student manager pleaded guilty to underage gambling on Monday. Evan Schuster agreed to pay a $645 fine as part of a plea agreement, which led to a charge of records tampering being dropped. That charge related to Schuster placing bets on his father’s FanDuel account.

Iowa college betting, scandal, Evan Schuster, basketball
University of Iowa men’s basketball student manager Evan Schuster, not pictured, placed around 2,000 bets on FanDuel from February 2021 to February 2023, according to prosecutors. These included bets on games he was involved in. (Image: University of Iowa Athletics)

Schuster’s was the final prosecution resulting from an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) probe that ensnared 25 Iowa college athletes on similar charges. It has been widely criticized for the methods used to gather evidence.

Warrantless Searches

The cases against six athletes facing more serious felony identity theft charges for gambling on their girlfriends’ or relatives’ accounts were withdrawn earlier this month by prosecutors in Story County.

That’s after defense attorneys complained the DCI’s evidence against their clients had been obtained using warrantless searches, violating the defendants’ Fourth Amendment rights. They also accused DCI agents of lying to one defendant about the nature of the investigation.

Schuster, who was prosecuted in Johnson County, received the same penalty as the 18 others who pleaded guilty to underage gambling charges.

As part of his plea deal, Schuster admitted to placing a bet in August 2020, when he was 18 years old. He also placed around 2,000 bets on FanDuel from February 2021 to February 2023. These included wagers on 10 University of Iowa men’s basketball games while he was student manager, according to the original criminal complaint.

Kicked-Off Kibana

According to defense lawyers in the Story County cases, the DCI gained access to geolocation tech provider GeoComply’s Kibana tracking software.

This was part of a “purely administrative” investigation. The probe was into whether sites like DraftKings and FanDuel were ensuring that bets were being ring-fenced inside the state in compliance with state gambling law.

But at some point, the agency began using the technology to pry into the betting habits of athletes while they were in their dorms. That’s without first obtaining a warrant or having reasonable suspicion of probable cause.

GeoComply cut the DCI’s access to its software in January for “exceeding the intended outlined scope of its Kibana access-and-use privileges,” according to court documents.

Liberties ‘Infringed’

Meanwhile, DCI Special Agent Mark Ludwick testified in a pretrial deposition to defense attorneys. He said he told Iowa State defensive lineman Isaiah Lee before an interview that he wouldn’t face criminal prosecution. After Lee admitted to placing bets in the ensuing interview, Ludwick said he was congratulated by his superior, Special Agent in Charge Troy Nelson, for obtaining “a confession.”

The DCI has defended its investigation, claiming it did nothing wrong. But others aren’t buying it.

“Basic liberties were infringed upon,” Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands told The Des Moines Register earlier this month. “That shouldn’t happen in this country. It shouldn’t happen in the state of Iowa.”