"It's basically a consulting firm," said Donaghy, 45, who's still on probation for gambling on basketball games and providing picks to two co-defendants while he was an active referee. He resigned in 2007 after 13 years in the league and pleaded guilty to federal gambling and wire-fraud charges in New York. He served about 13 months in prison.
Donaghy's current employer is known in the gambling industry — and apparently to Donaghy's probation officer — as Danny Berrelli. But his real name is Daniel T. Biancullo, a North Jersey native with a 2004 federal conviction stemming from his role in a Florida sports-gambling operation that counted former Flyers star Jeremy Roenick among its clients.
Last week, Biancullo, 49, confirmed his "real" identity when contacted by the Daily News, saying he'd been using Berrelli as a "stage name" for years. He said it wasn't designed to cover up his criminal past.
"Hiding names, aliases, it's all part of the business," he said. "This comes back to me protecting my kids. Everyone has stage names."
Donaghy, who is prohibited from associating with felons while on probation, said he wasn't aware of Biancullo's conviction until informed by the Daily News.
"As long as it wasn't molesting kids," Donaghy said. "I'm nobody to judge anyone."
Donaghy's probation officer in Sarasota, Fla., where he lives, apparently was under the impression that Biancullo's "stage name" was his real name.
"We are investigating the true identity of Danny Berrelli," said Steve Beasely, Deputy Chief U.S. Probation Officer for the Middle District of Florida, said Monday. "We were not aware that Danny Berrelli had any other name."
Biancullo was among a crew of Florida-based sports handicappers, or "touts," who pleaded guilty in 2004 to federal gambling charges for falsely claiming to have inside information about games and referring callers to offshore casinos in exchange for kickbacks.
The Inquirer reported then that federal authorities caught Biancullo on tape telling one caller: "When you're paying guys to throw a game, when you're paying officials to make bad calls, you know it costs a lot of money. There's a lot of money at stake here. Millions and millions of dollars. So that's why the cost is so great."
Roenick, who was never charged with a crime, acknowledged that he was a client of the firm Biancullo worked for. He told the Inquirer in 2004 that he considered them "scam artists."
"Honestly, they lie like [bleeping] rugs," he told the newspaper.
When asked last week about his past legal troubles, Biancullo said he'd gotten "caught up in a bad thing." He was sentenced to 6 months' home detention and 3 years' probation.
"I'm not a saint. I'm not a [bleeping] choirboy," he said. "I'm sure people are going to take shots at me. I don't give a rat's ass. I'm a survivor. I've been around the block more times than a space shuttle and I've survived."
Biancullo and Donaghy, who started working together in October 2010, say their current operation is entirely above-board.
"Who do you want to pick your NBA games, a plumber down the block or a former NBA referee? I'll go with the former referee," said Biancullo, who said he's paying Donaghy about $50,000 a year, including car payments.
Donaghy said his probation officer had him evaluated by a psychiatrist, who green-lighted the arrangement.
"He said it was a way I was going to provide a living for my family," said Donaghy, a divorced father of four daughters, ages 10 to 16. "Trust me, there's nothing legally wrong with it. I went through my probation officer to get approval."
Donaghy's unusual employment situation means that a slice of the court-mandated restitution he's still paying the NBA is, in all likelihood, generated by basketball gambling. Perhaps that's more fitting than ironic, Biancullo said.
"I would never watch basketball if I didn't have action on it," Biancullo said. "What do you think fuels the NBA? Betting."
Biancullo said he's seen Donaghy exchange text messages with coaches about how they're not getting certain calls. Donaghy disputed that, saying he hasn't stayed in touch with coaches, but still has "contacts with some players and scouts and people that are involved" in the NBA.
"Is he an asset? Sure. He gives you the advantage," Biancullo said. "His advice has helped me produce a good amount of winners. But we've had our bad streaks, too."
Biancullo, a rapid-fire talker who bounces from one topic to the next, said he hopes Donaghy can help build up his company once the ex-ref is released from probation this fall. For starters, he'd like him to start attending basketball games.
"I plan on getting him out and about. I want the camera on him in a good way. I want people to stop seeing the ‘disgraced referee,'?" Biancullo said. "‘Disgraced?' Let's lose that."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Goldberg, who prosecuted Donaghy's case in Brooklyn, declined to comment on Donaghy's current activities.
Donaghy said the job has been "good so far," and that he doesn't "have the urge to go back" to gambling, even when a game pans out exactly the way he'd predicted — which makes money for Biancullo's clients.
"I still feel, at times, that I can predict these games," said Donaghy, who previously worked at a gambling treatment center before signing up with Biancullo.
But Biancullo, doing a little amateur psychology of his own, said he thinks the experience has been a mixed bag for Donaghy.
"I've watched his face as he's watching playoff games and he knows he should be there. The payback is watching it on TV. I see the pain and the remorse and the regret," Biancullo said. "What else is he going to do with his life? Go on and do something else? It's not that easy, man. I think Tim finds that this gives him a little taste of what was."
"He's stuck with his gift," Biancullo added. "Knowing the NBA."
Contact William Bender at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@wbender99.