The case that seemingly wouldn’t end is about to. Reputed Detroit mob associates Gary (the Cigarette) Manni and Mitchell (Steady Eddie) Karam will finally be sentenced this month in federal court for their roles in orchestrating the mid-2000s University of Toledo point-shaving conspiracy. The last of the co-defendants to have their punishments doled out to them, they are both currently incarcerated on unrelated convictions and will receive six-year prison sentences.
The indictment charging Manni and Karam implicated seven former Toledo athletes with fixing Rockets football and basketball games and was filed in 2009 in U.S. District Court in Michigan. Two of the players were charged years prior and six ended up in the 2009 indictment. All the co-defendants have pled guilty. Karam, 84, pled out back in 2013 – he’ll be sentenced in two weeks, Manni, 58, in late 2014 – he got sentenced Tuesday. The athletes (four basketball players and three football players) all received probation.
According to their plea deals, Karam and Manni admitted to wagering close to a half-million dollars on Toledo athletic events just between 2005 and 2006 alone – the conspiracy ran all the way from September 2003 to February 2006. On the same day in May 2009 that the point-shaving indictment dropped, Steady Eddie, a veteran of the Detroit underworld, was indicted in federal court in Florida for fixing horse races at Tampa Bay Downs (the Detroit mob was involved in horse-race fixing in Michigan in the 1960s and 70s). Karam is already serving time on the race-fixing charges and charges of bank fraud. Manni is behind bars for illegal firearm possession and running a food-stamp scam out of his family-owned grocery store.
Allegedly tied to the Detroit mafia’s Giacalone crew, Karam and Manni are both Christian Iraqis, part of a large faction of native Middle-Easterners long linked to traditional Italian organized crime in Michigan.The Giacalone crew has been in charge of Motor City mob activity taking place in Ohio for over 50 years. Toledo, Ohio is approximately 60 miles outside of Detroit.
The crime family in Detroit set up shop just across the state border in Toledo during Prohibition. From roughly 1955 until he passed away in 2012, legendary rustbelt gangster Vito (Billy Jack) Giacalone, looked after the Ohio rackets for Michigan mafia administrators. His son, Jack (Jackie the Kid) Giacalone is reputed to be Detroit’s new mob boss, as of last year when he replaced dying don Giacomo (Black Jack) Tocco.
The Giacalones and Allen (the General) Hilf, Jackie’s best friend and No. 1 advisor until he died in 2014, as well as one of the biggest bookmakers in the nation in his prime, were each investigated by federal authorities for their role in the Toledo fix-it job, however none of them were charged. Their names and voices were heard on court-authorized wiretaps talking about the fixed games and the FBI’s probe into it. In the 1990s, Hilf, who was Jewish and could never be “made” into the mafia, and the Giacalones, were investigated for fixing at least two Detroit Pistons games in December 1989 with no charges ever being levied either.
The Toledo athletes got hooked up with Karam (half-Lebanese) and Manni through Manni’s cousin, Marvin Savaya, the owner of a cell phone store in the Toledo area. Savaya began getting “betting tips” from Toledo football player Adam Cuomo and eventually introduced him to Manni at Detroit’s Motor City Casino, one of two legal gambling palaces (the other being the Greektown Casino) that he and Karam would wine and dine the Rockets players. Cuomo, a back-up running back, recruited fellow Rockets football players Harvey (Scooter) McDougle and Quinton Broussard and Toledo basketball players Keith Triplett, Kashif Payne, Anton Currie and Sammy Villegas, to help alter point-spreads in both sports. McDougal admitted to intentionally fumbling in the 2005 GMAC Bowl.
Manni and Karam were frequent visitors to the Toledo campus, getting VIP treatment at games and would pay the players at meet-ups in Detroit, either in random shopping mall, hotel or bank parking lots or in expensive dinners at restaurants in the casinos. The actual payouts for the players were minimal – nobody got more than $10,000 and most got less than $5,000.
Per sources familiar with both Manni and Karam (pronounced CARE-UM), Manni’s entre into the world of Detroit organized crime came via Karam 25 years ago as Karam’s driver. Steady Eddie Karam got his start in the rackets in the crew of Michigan gambling czar and mob capo Salvatore (Sammy Lou) Lucido during the late 1950s. Karam requested and got a “transfer” from Lucido’s crew to Billy Giacalone’s crew after a falling out with Lucido’s nephews, Jack (Fat Jackie) Lucido and Sam Lucido, in the 1970s over ownership in a suburban Detroit country club.
Sam Lucido and Karam co-founded the Wolverine Golf Club, which was located at 25 Mile Rd. and Romeo Plank, in 1969. Fat Jackie Lucido, Sammy Lou’s successor as family capo after he died of cancer in 1985, muscled Karam out of his ownership stake in 1980 and took over the club. Fat Jackie was indicted for gambling and racketeering offenses in the winter of 1970 in a case Karam was an unindicted co-conspirator in (Lucido was convicted). Lucido’s Wolverine Golf Club crew was indicted again in 1993, but everyone beat the charges, just months before Fat Jackie himself died of leukemia in 1995. The Lucido crew was shutdown after Fat Jackie died. The son-in-law of longtime Detroit mafia underboss Angelo (the Chairman) Meli, Sam Lucido died of natural causes two years ago.