DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — It should have been the most innocent of activities: a youth football league that showcased the region's budding athletic talent and nurtured college and NFL hopefuls.
But some leaders of the South Florida Youth Football League exploited the young players' talent and gambled on games, law enforcement said Tuesday. The winnings that investigators say were illegally obtained totaled more than $100,000, according to an arrest warrant.
Prosecutors said their 18-month investigation began after a May 2011 ESPN report about gambling at games where players were aged 5 to 15.
Investigators said bets were taken at a Lauderhill barber shop, and two coaches are accused of betting on point spreads before kids' games.
The nine arrestees' common bond was their roles as youth football coaches and assistants.
The Broward Sheriff's Office conducted "Operation Dirty Play" with Fort Lauderdale and Lauderhill police, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Marshals Service.
Fort Lauderdale police began surveillance in 2011 to end the betting and drinking, drug use and fighting that a police spokesman said was happening at pee wee games at the time.
Illegal bets were made on pro sporting events at Red Carpet Kutz barber shop in Lauderhill, BSO said.
The shop did not offer shaves or trims, and instead served as a front for gambling stations behind dark tinted windows, according to the agency.
Those who went before Broward County Court Judge Linda Pratt on Tuesday were:
•Brandon Bivins, 36, of Delray Beach, was coach and president of the Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes. He was charged with bookmaking and keeping a house for gambling. Bivins was accused of being the leader of the gambling organization, court documents said, and given a $100,000 bond.
•Darron Bostic, 29, coach of the Deerfield Beach Packer-Rattlers, charged with bookmaking and given a $15,000 bond.
•Darren Jerome Brown, 41, Fort Lauderdale. A Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes coach, he is charged with bookmaking and keeping a house for gambling. He was given a $100,000 bond.
•LaTaurus Tarmayne Fort, 35, Northwest Broward Raiders coach, charged with bookmaking and given a $25,000 bond.
•Vincent Gernard Gray, 42, Lauderdale Lakes. A Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes coach, was arrested Tuesday and charged with bookmaking and keeping a gambling house. His bond was $100,000 and he did not appear in court.
•Brandon Marlon Lewis, 25, Pompano Beach. A member of the Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes, he was charged with bookmaking and keeping a house for gambling. He was given a $100,000 bond.
•Brad D. Parker, 37, Fort Lauderdale. Affiliated with Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes and charged with bookmaking. He was given a $50,000 bond, but ordered held without bond for violating probation.
•Dave Constantine Small, 41, Lauderhill Lions coach, charged with bookmaking and given a $15,000 bond.
•Willie Tindal, 36, Northwest Broward Raiders coach, charged with bookmaking and given a $25,000 bond.
According to one of the arrest warrants, amounts wagered in advance of the little league football Super Bowl meant more than $100,000 to the winner, and coaches would actively place bets against an opposing team.
Bostic's lawyer told Pratt that he had no access to his client for several hours and called Bostic's arrest "a big show."
"This man isn't part of a betting ring or anything like that," attorney Frank Chapman said. "We're going to come in here and jack up a high bond and show him off to ESPN, let ESPN take pictures of my client handcuffed to a chair in a parking lot for four hours?" he said. "So I'm a little upset, and I think the bond is ridiculous."
A father told the court that Bostic, who BSO said has no criminal convictions, trained his teen son and defended the coach as "an amazing young man. I've just seen him demonstrate all the right things."
At least four of the accused — Bivins, Brown, Parker and Gray — had criminal records, the arrest warrant states. Convictions include drug offenses and grand theft.
Lewis does not have a criminal record and the judge waived a requirement that he prove his bond money comes from untainted sources.
Earlier this month, in an incident not connected to this week's arrests, Dion Robinson, 43, an assistant youth football coach, was charged with battery after allegedly assaulting a referee during a game at West Park's McTyre Park. He previously served time for robbery, state records show.
South Florida Youth Football's president, Mike Spivey, did not return calls or email seeking comment. The league's website says coaches who gamble, recruit kids or pay them to play or hit other players will be banned for life.
The league is one of a half-dozen in South Florida that organize thousands of
kids from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties into football teams.
"It's disappointing anytime we have role models that get arrested," said Ross Sinel, president of American Youth Football League. "But there are a lot of good coaches who give back to their communities and teach kids discipline, structure, how to win and lose, and how to achieve."
The AYFLs' nearly 4,000 players are from 16 cities in Broward and Palm Beach County. He says member cities have different ways to check out the up to 42 volunteer coaches who serve each municipality.
"We've never had a problem with gambling. But you have to do the background check to promote a safe atmosphere," Sinel said. He said a coach was let go last May after failing a check. "With this latest news, we will look at getting a consistent, uniform way to screen coaches."