By W.G. Ramirez (TWITTER: @AP_WG)
Part 1 of 2
Darin Notaro says he was making more than a quarter-million dollars a year before he graduated high school. And that, he adds, was surprisingly his downfall.
“My senior year in high school I made $300,000. You’re a young kid, you feel like nobody can really tell you nothing. You get a sense of power around town. People like ya, the girls, you feel a little powerful; but boy there’s a big price to pay with that. I was blind; you’re absolutely right about that.”
Notaro is a two-time convicted felon whose sports-betting reality series “Money Talks” is set to debut Sept. 10 on CNBC, and he’s hoping will pique sports-gambling fans even more than it has online critics across the sports-betting industry.
Yet while everyone from journalists, to talk-show hosts, to handicappers, to industry pundits who he said have no business wagging their fingers in his face since they seemingly operate with impunity while appearing to walk on high moral ground have been boisterous, the only person who’s publicly remained silent all this time is Notaro.
After spending a couple of hours with Notaro at a local Italian deli – yes, at times it felt like the only thing missing was the Godfather theme and a gun hidden behind the men’s room toilet – it felt more like an interview with the character from a different motion picture: “8 Mile.” You remember the rap battle near the end of the movie, when Jimmy B-Rabbit Smith, the character portrayed by Eminem, does the unthinkable by turning the spotlight on himself and freestyling negative rhymes so his nemesis couldn’t?
Knowingly being recorded, Notaro was candid about his negative past and had no qualms acknowledging and discussing what everyone in the sports betting and handicapping community has been clamoring about since news hit the Internet and spread like wildfire about the show. Quite frankly, you’d think Notaro needed a white Ford Bronco the way everyone has been calling for his head, from social media sites, to sports-betting blogs and forums, to newspaper columns, to radio talk shows.
Then again, when you know someone has been convicted for being part of a telemarketing scam that bilked thousands of dollars from elderly people, the question undoubtedly has to be asked: “Why in the hell would CNBC – a satellite and cable television business news channel – give the felon-card holder his own TV series?”
It’s a question the journalistic community had to ask the network, and why it would endorse a television show that features a guy whose original two-minute trailer revealed a better-than 70 percent winning percentage for his players while calling himself a “well-known” handicapper, when most of the talking heads had no clue about Steve Stevens – Notaro’s alter ego in his office and on his show.
Well, with the college football season underway, and the NFL set to start next Thursday, let’s meet them both: Notaro, and Stevens…
- REALITY, WHAT A CONCEPT
When one of your best friends is Floyd Mayweather and your office is just suites away from the world champion’s boxing gym, your worlds are bound to gravitate toward one another. Notaro and Mayweather met long before the sports tout suggested the boxer move his headquarters into the same plaza in Chinatown, but the fact Notaro is as flamboyant in his world as Pretty Boy is in his, it’s easy to see why the two are good friends.
So when Mayweather’s production team that makes the documentary 24/7 before each one of his fights listened to an idea of bringing cameras into the sports-tout world for a reality series about a phone-room operation, and Pretty Boy gave his crew the stamp of approval to work with Notaro, the sports-tout business owner said the right people thought it had enough sizzle to take to networks.
“Floyd is just a good friend of mine,” Notaro said. “He introduced me to the guys who did 24/7, they put the show together. Floyd isn’t looking for anything from me or anything from my show. He’s a good friend of mine and that’s pretty much where we stand. I don’t even brag about the famous athletes or the richest athletes, or this, that or the other. I’m not that type of guy. I’ve made it this far without doing any of that. CNBC just isn’t putting crap on the air. I’ve earned their trust and confidence and gave ’em a show that they’re backing 110 percent. And I hope America does too.”
With three shows in the bank, the pilot episode is set to air Sept. 10 at 10 p.m., while production toward 13 more episodes will begin the same day as the debut. Notaro said the misconception about the show is that everyone believes it’s about him handicapping games; but in reality, it’s about the sports-tout business.
The difference, Notaro said, is he is “a tout, … need to get that clear – I’m a tout. The show isn’t just about me and picking games. The home base is pretty much our office. But then there are five characters you go off and follow … it’s a reality show.”
Notaro believes he is injecting adrenaline into the industry, while his critics believe CNBC is about to shed light on someone who practices unethical telemarketing, and not the world of sports betting.
And that is where the controversy begins…
- A TELEMARKETING FRAUD
In 1995, Notaro was one of several arrested for wire fraud and aiding and abetting in a telemarketing scam that targeted elderly people. He paid $12,230 in restitution and served 18 months in federal prison. Four years later, while on probation for those charges, he said he was arrested and charged with violating his probation by telemarketing without a telemarketer’s license. He paid a fine with the state and went back to prison for a year and one day. He is adamant a story reported on Wagerminds.com that stated he was convicted three times is incorrect – it was only twice. And as for the use of another alias – Darin Sasser – Notaro said that’s simply his mother’s last name and there was never any attempt at being disingenuous.
Nevertheless, Notaro is a convicted felon and has plenty to answer for if he’s going to appear on a financial television network to advise people how to invest their money in sports betting. Like how and why would you get involved in such a racket, and why did you return after once convicted?
“When you’re seeing seven, eight thousand dollars a week, you’re definitely blinded by the money,” Notaro said. “But as I got older and realized what happened and what we did and how you sold elderly people, yeah, it actually hurt my heart and blew my mind.
“Did I learn from it? It made me a whole different person, it made me a better person. When I look back at it, I think there’s still guys that I’ve heard are doing it to this day, makes me want to beat their ass to be honest with you. I worked at a company I didn’t own, I was a salesman … I went to prison for it. Young kid, got caught up in something, made some bad decisions. I paid a price, yeah it was very hurtful to me. Changed who I am, made me a better person.”
Asked if he ever considered the fact one of those elderly people could have been his own grandparent, Notaro became animated and emotional in his response.
“Beyond a shadow of a doubt,” he said. “It makes me sick, don’t like it at all. I got older and realized I was in a racket, a business that targeted elderly people and at that time you don’t really look at it as targeting people like that because you’re just doing your job at what people told you to do and I was a good salesman cause I was an energetic kid.
“But I sat there as a young man doing my time and paid a price that would put me in a situation to where I wouldn’t even think of doing something that I did 15, 20 years ago.”
His detractors believe he’s simply jumped right back into a world of unethical telemarketing, this time with his targets being naïve sports bettors that buy into a sales pitch that could be littered with unsubstantiated claims. And Notaro said he fully understands there might be legitimate critics who will question CNBC giving a platform to a convicted felon with his kind of checkered past. But at the same time, he also gives a Michael Jordan-shrug to those who are questioning Money Talks, yet still operate phone rooms or sports services of some kind under the same guise they claim he’s operating under.
“People are always looking for the bad,” he said. “But at the same time I paid my price for that … and I’ve done everything that they’ve asked to do … and I’ve worked hard and gave blood, sweat and tears to build this business.”
Which leads us to Steve Stevens…
Read PART 2 of this series