While Tim Donaghy remains holed up in his Florida home, the FBI has been canvassing the Philadelphia area, visiting at least a dozen individuals connected to the disgraced NBA referee, sources told the

Daily News


NBA commissioner David Stern has referred to Donaghy as a "rogue, isolated criminal," but he has a lot of friends and associates back in Philadelphia, and the FBI is determined to speak to them before charges are filed.

Agents continued to interview local individuals as part of what appears to be a widening gambling probe, sources said yesterday.

The FBI is particularly interested in people who have ties to Donaghy over the past 2 years, the sources said. The investigation has focused on the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons, during which time he is alleged to have bet on NBA games and provided information that enabled others to profit.

Donaghy, who resigned July 9, reportedly has put his Bradenton, Fla., home up for sale with a price tag of $1.35 million - just 2 years after moving from West Chester following a bitter dispute with a neighbor. Vito Bavaro, Donaghy's realtor, hasn't returned phone calls. Donaghy sold his West Chester home for $850,000 in March 2005.

Despite early indications that Donaghy would surrender 2 weeks ago, he is now not expected to do so until next week at the earliest. Stern has told reporters the former referee is contemplating a plea deal with authorities.

Donaghy's precise role in the gambling operation has not been disclosed, but even providing information about assignments is prohibited, according to an anti-gambling brochure the NBA distributes to referees.

The brochure says: "Referees are prohibited from disclosing their schedule of game assignments to anyone, including family, friends and acquaintances [with the exception of immediate family members]. Any violation of this rule will subject the referee to discipline, up to and including termination of employment."

At least one local gambler, Pete Ruggieri, told authorities that he picked up on the scheme and would "piggyback" on bets placed by James "Baa Baa" Battista and another gambler who were winning at an unusual rate on games Donaghy officiated.

Battista, of Phoenixville, is expected to be indicted, according to his attorney, but the charges have not been specified. It is unclear whether Ruggieri will be charged, though his attorney has denied that he had any gambling connection to Donaghy. *