In the waning days of the 2012 major league season, Niki Congero received an unusual text message. It came from a man she had never met — a sports handicapper who for a couple of weeks had been texting unsolicited betting tips to her cellphone.

“LOL,” wrote the man, who identified himself as James Hunter from VIP Sports. “I got a baseball game that will be fixed on sunday.”

Congero, a co-owner of a recording studio in Las Vegas, had celebrity connections. She was hosting an upcoming charity event at the Mirage hotel featuring reality-TV stars and figured the handicapper was offering her free tips because he had pegged her as a conduit to high-profile clients.

At first the tips were nothing special, Congero told The Center for Investigative Reporting. Then the handicapper guaranteed her a winner in the Sept. 16 game between the Pirates and the Cubs at Wrigley Field. “My best friend is pitching today for the ­pirates,” Hunter texted. “His name is jeff locke. he will not have a good day.” In a later text he wrote, “Tell your biggest people that pirates game today is fixed. My friend will be throwing this game.”

Pittsburgh jumped out to an early lead behind Locke, a late-season call-up. While the Bucs were ahead, Congero says, the handicapper phoned her, acknowledging that the game wasn’t going the way he had predicted. He implied that he was in touch with the lefthander even as the game was under way.

“I talked to my friend the pitcher, and he said he was going to make it right,” Congero remembers him saying.

Sure enough, in the bottom of the fifth inning, Locke fell apart. In a span of eight pitches he gave up a home run, a single, another home run and another single, shrinking the Pirates’ lead from 6-1 to 6-5. He left the game, and Pittsburgh went on to lose 13-9.