Iowa Athletes Take Legal Action against Betting Investigators

Twenty-six athletes from Iowa and Iowa State University have filed a lawsuit against the state, alleging a violation of their constitutional rights through an investigation into their sports betting activities.

DCI investigators questioned and detained several athletes, including Iowa State University starting quarterback Hunter Dekkers. (Source: Wesley Winterink)

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Lodged in the Southern District of Iowa, the lawsuit accused the state of Iowa, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, and specific DCI employees—Stephan Bayens, Paul Feddersen, David Jobes, Troy Nelson, and Brian Sanger of breaching the athletes' 4th and 14th Amendment rights through warrantless searches and illegal seizures.

The group claimed that the DCI established a sports investigative unit in 2021. During an investigation conducted jointly with the state of Illinois, the DCI discovered GeoComply's geolocation technology and its efficiency in detecting fraudulent activity and identifying when betting occurs from restricted locations like schools or prisons.

Subsequently, DCI sought access to the tool. However, before allowing the DCI to use the software, GeoComply asked the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission for permission and applied for licensure to share information directly with the division without needing a warrant.

Sanger Allegedly Exceeded Authority in Betting Investigation

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) gave GeoComply greenlighted the move, allowing Special Agent Sanger from the DCI to use the geolocation technology to check the betting activity at Iowa University and Iowa State University.

However, GeoComply's data only provides account numbers, not names, which prompted Sanger to obtain subpoenas from the DCI, compelling betting operators to reveal the names associated with the accounts.

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Armed with the data obtained from the tool, the investigators started questioning and detaining several athletes, including NFL player Eyioma Uwazurike and Iowa State University starting quarterback Hunter Dekkers. In some cases, the DCI seized suspects' cell phones as evidence based on Sanger's findings.

The investigation’s results also prompted the NCAA to launch a separate probe into the alleged betting violations by the college athletes. It also led to the college sports regulator announcing a new set of guidelines and penalties for student-athletes found wagering on teams at their school, excluding their own team.

Although several athletes admitted they were guilty, later law enforcement had to drop charges against four of them over worries that Sanger had gone too far in the investigation.

These athletes were listed amongst the defendants of the lawsuit, including those who didn't face formal charges but still suffered consequences, such as losing eligibility to participate in their athletic programs and missing time with their teammates.

The group blamed Sanger, the DCI, and its leaders for not properly training and supervising their investigators.


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