NECC Basketball Coach Indicted in Sports Gambling Scheme

Darren Stratton, 41, of Haverhill. (Photograph courtesy Attorney General Maura Healey’s office.)

Note: This story has been updated to include a comment from the college.

Darren Stratton, as shown on the website of Northern Essex Community College.

Darren Stratton, as shown on the website of Northern Essex Community College.

The men’s head basketball coach at Northern Essex Community College (NECC) is among 33 individuals indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury in connection with a “multimillion dollar sports betting operation” in the Boston and South Shore areas.

Darren Stratton, 41, of Haverhill, was charged with registering bets, using the telephone to register bets and conspiracy to register bets. Stratton, a 1991 graduate of Haverhill High School, has served the college 14 years, according to the NECC website. As coach, he took the team to the post season in 1998-1999, 1990-2000, 2001-2002, 2033-2004 and 2006-2008. He was a member of the NJCAA Region XXI Men’s Basketball Committee for three years between 2001 and 2004. After graduating from Haverhill High, Stratton attended NECC, where he helped guide the Knights to one of the best school records in men’s basketball history with a record of 22-6, according to the college website, which added, he was among the nation’s leaders in assists.

A Northern Essex spokesperson confirmed Monday afternoon, the college has placed Stratton “on leave pending a review by the college.”

“As this involves an internal personnel matter and possibly related legal matters, the college will have no further comment at this time,” according to a statement released to WHAV.

A 122-count indictment was the result of an investigation by Attorney General Maura Healey’s office and the Massachusetts State Police, with assistance from various federal, state and local authorities. According to a statement Friday, the investigation began in August, 2014, when the Massachusetts State Police Special Service Section’s Organized Crime Unit developed information about a betting operation based out of East Boston and South Boston and operating throughout Massachusetts and referred the matter to the attorney general’s Gaming Enforcement Division.

“These defendants amassed a network of bettors in a multimillion dollar enterprise that utilized an off-shore betting website for their bookkeeping in an attempt to circumvent state gambling laws,” Healey said.

The suspected leader of the network, John Woodman, 43, of Braintree, was also indicted last week by a statewide grand jury. Woodman allegedly maintained a network of more than 30 agents who took illegal bets from more than 700 bettors in Massachusetts. Those agents then provided bettors with accounts on an off-shore sports betting website called PerHead, which allowed the bettors and agents to register and track bets. Authorities allege that the agents would then directly collect debts or pay winnings to the bettors in person.

Travis Prescott, the owner and operator of the website, PerHead, based out of Costa Rica, was also indicted, along with the company itself. The attorney general’s office has charged the corporation with money laundering and organizing illegal gaming, among other charges.

Stratton is alleged to have been an agent of Frederick Stevenson, Woodman’s master agent.

Investigators seized $450,000 in cash, three guns, and six vehicles during the course of the investigation. Authorities allege that yearly profits of the operation exceeded $3 million and that from May, 2014, to May, 2015, about $6 million worth of bets were placed.

Stratton and the other defendants are scheduled to be arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court Nov. 30.

“The state police have a long tradition of investigating and enforcing illegal gaming, and are grateful to the attorney general for her leadership in prosecuting this case,” said Colonel Richard D. McKeon, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police. “We will continue to work together with prosecutors to hold accountable those who circumvent the state’s gambling laws.”

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