NEW YORK -- Former referee Tim Donaghy pleaded guilty to two felony charges Wednesday in an NBA betting scandal that rocked the league and raised questions about the integrity of games.
Donaghy faces a maximum of 25 years in prison when he is sentenced for conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting wagering information through interstate commerce.
Donaghy provided recommendations, called "picks," to co-conspirators about what team they should bet on, said U.S. District Court Judge Carol Bagley Amon. If he was correct, they paid him.
The picks included information about games that Donaghy officiated, the government said.
The information was not public, the judge said. Donaghy had "unique access," including what crews would officiate at games, the interaction of different officials and players, and the physical condition of certain players.
He concealed the scheme from the NBA and other referees to avoid detection, the judge said.
Donaghy also must pay a $500,000 fine and at least $30,000 in restitution.
Donaghy's lawyer, John Lauro, told The Associated Press: "Tim is relieved this part of the proceeding is over and we look forward to completely resolving this matter in the coming months.
"Tim deeply regrets his involvement in this matter and especially the pain it has caused his family, friends and co-workers."
Donaghy, who stood ramrod-straight, hands clasped in front of him, spoke in nearly inaudible tones as he told the judge that he is seeing a psychiatrist for his gambling addiction, and is taking an antidepressant and anxiety medication.
"As expected, former NBA referee Tim Donaghy pleaded guilty today to betting on NBA games, including games in which he officiated, and providing confidential information to others who bet on NBA games," NBA commissioner David Stern said in a statement. "We will continue with our ongoing and thorough review of the league's officiating program to ensure that the best possible policies and procedures are in place to protect the integrity of our game."
"Tim Donaghy's former colleagues on the NBA's officiating staff are deeply saddened to learn that he pleaded guilty today to wagering on professional basketball games and providing others with non-public information on those games," Lamell McMorris, a spokesman for the National Basketball Referees Association said in a statement. "This is a truly unfortunate case of wrongdoing by one of our own who has admitted to having a serious gambling problem. We recognize that a cloud has descended upon all referees, but we are committed to showing the public that this was an isolated event and that NBA officiating is conducted at the highest levels of honesty, integrity and fairness"
Prosecutors said in open court that Donaghy bet on games himself; but that was not a specific part of the verbal admission he made before the judge.
The two alleged co-conspirators were in the custody of federal marshals on Wednesday and were awaiting arraignment on conspiracy charges carrying a maximum penalty of 20 years.
The FBI first contacted the NBA on June 20 to talk about a referee alleged to be gambling on games, and the two sides met on June 21, Stern said last month. Donaghy resigned July 9 after 13 years as a referee; Stern said he would have fired him sooner but was told it might affect the investigation.
Stern blamed a "rogue, isolated criminal" for the betting scandal that threatened the credibility of every referee.
Donaghy was rated in the top tier of officials, Stern said, and there was nothing suspicious about the frequency of his foul calls. He was assigned to work in the second round of the playoffs, with his last NBA game coming during the Phoenix-San Antonio Western Conference semifinal series.
No other NBA officials or players were expected to be involved in the scandal, which Stern called the "most serious situation and worst situation that I have ever experienced either as a fan of the NBA, a lawyer for the NBA or a commissioner of the NBA."
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report