5 charged in Iowa sports betting probe plead guilty to lesser charges


Five current and former Iowa and Iowa State student-athletes have pleaded guilty to reduced charges in the state’s investigation into illegal sports betting, agreeing to pay a fine instead of risking jail time, according to court documents.

Current and former Iowa State University athletes Hunter Dekkers, Jake Remsburg and Dodge Sauser, and former University of Iowa athletes Aaron Blom and Gehrig Christensen, all have pleaded guilty to underage gambling.

That charges carries a $645 fine and no jail sentence, according to court documents. Previously, all five had been charged with tampering, an aggravated misdemeanor that can be punishable with a sentence of up to two years.

Four play or have played football at their schools. Christensen played baseball at Iowa.

Under NCAA rules, student-athletes who wager on a game in which they compete or on any competition involving their school could potentially face permanent loss of collegiate eligibility in all sports. Dekkers, Sauser and Blom each placed bets on their respective teams, and Christensen placed bets on other Iowa athletics events, according to court documents.

Dekkers and Remsburg were still listed Wednesday afternoon on the Iowa State football team’s online roster. The legal firm representing them in the plea deal said neither has left the program, and a team spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for their status in light of the plea agreements.

Sauser already had voluntarily left the team after the investigation and charges were announced, a team spokesman said previously.

Blom, a kicker on the Iowa football team, is no longer with the program, a spokesman said Wednesday. Christensen previously left the Iowa baseball program after news of the investigation broke and before charges were filed.

Attorneys for Dekkers, Remsburg and Sauser in a news release said the original charges of tampering with records “never fit this case” and asserted that none of the three were guilty of that charge. Attorneys from the Weinhardt Law Firm in Des Moines said the only state law the three broke was placing bets before turning 21 years old.

Dekkers, a junior from Hawarden, was Iowa State’s starting quarterback last season; he threw for the fourth-most yards in a season in program history, and was honorable mention all-Big 12 Conference. Remsburg, a senior offensive lineman from West Des Moines, started six games last season. Sauser, from Grinnell, did not appear in any games during 2022, his redshirt freshman season.

Blom, a walk-on kicker from Oskaloosa, was on the Iowa football team for three years. He appeared in two games in 2022 and was 1-of-3 on field goal attempts before losing the starting job to eventual national award semifinalist Drew Stevens.

Christensen appeared in 11 games in 2023, including six starts. Perfect Game rated the catcher from Urbandale as a top-500 player nationally in high school.

A total of 16 current and former Iowa and Iowa State student-athletes and other individuals have been charged with placing illegal bets and tempering with records to conceal their involvement. At least five placed illegal bets on games in which they participated, according to charges filed this year by prosecutors.

More student-athletes beyond those facing charges also may face penalties from the NCAA, the body that governs college athletics, for violating its rules against betting on college sports.

Earlier this week, the most serious charges yet were filed in the investigation. Eyioma Uwazurike, a former Iowa State football player, and Paniro Johnson, a current Iowa State wrestler, each was charged with Class D felony identity theft, according to court documents filed in Story County.

In Iowa, a Class D felony carries punishments of up to five years in jail and a fine of between $750 and $7,500. Uwazurike and Johnson also still face an earlier charge of tampering with records, an aggravated misdemeanor punishable by up to two years.

Uwazurike and Johnson both have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

John Steppe of The Gazette contributed to this report.

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