Phil Mickelson Part of an Illegal Sports Gambling Case, According to Several Sources
Famed golfer Phil Mickelson is part of a federal investigation into an illegal sports betting operation, though he is not accused of a crime. According to ESPN’s Outside The Lines program, Mickelson made nearly $3 million in payments to an intermediary in “an illegal gambling operation which accepted and placed bets on sporting events”.
Mickelson is the most high-profile gambler in a multi-state illegal gambling operation which, according to two published sources and court documents. Those documents come from a guilty plea reached last week by Gregory Silveira, a 56-year old man from La Quinta, California.
Gregory Silveira pleaded guilty last week to charges he worked as an intermediary for an international online sports betting ring. In most such gaming rings, a handicapper like Silveira would gave a username and password to a gambler, who would make picks on sporting events on an online site. Later, Silveira would either pay out winnings or collect gambling debts from the gambler.
In the case of Phil Mickelson, he collected about $2.75 million.
No Charges against Mickelson
Phil Mickelson was one of those gamblers. Authorities made clear that Mr. Mickelson is not charged with any crimes. Also, he is not the target of any investigation and he is not suspected of illegal behavior. Though it is illegal for unlicensed handicappers to take bets from gamblers in the United States, gamblers are not prosecuted in such cases. It is assumed their punishment was losing money to bookmakers who sometimes charge a 20% vigorish, also known as “the vig” or “the juice”. Under such terms, few if any gamblers could turn a profit.
Mickelson is one of the most popular golfers on the PGA. He is a 5-time Major winner known for his likable personality. In years past, he would appear on ESPN Radio to pick football games during the NFL season, for the sake of entertainment. During those appearances, Mickelson showed skill at picking winners, though winning consistently at sports betting is not easy.
Plea Bargained the Case
Gregory Silveira pleaded guilty to 3 counts of money laundering of funds for an unnamed “gambling client”, though several sources have named Phil Mickelson as the client. Those violations took place between February 2010 and February 2013.
ESPN analyst Mike Fish described Gregory Silveira as a former sports tout who owned several publications and phone services which gave “supposed great tips”. After the 1990s, Silveira “went under the radar”, but he’s recently resurfaced in this case. Thus, it appears he stopped publicizing or touting his picks and become a bookmaker or bookie, instead. He appears to have used his former celebrity to have collected at least one high roller celebrity gambler.
Sentencing in October 2015
On October 5, Mr. Silveira is set to return to court and appear before U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillip. Judge Phillip will sentence Silveira for his 3 convictions on that day. The maximum sentence is 60 years, though the actual time served is expected to be a much shorter time.
Money laundering is seen as a white collar crime, so it tends to be given less than the maximum sentence. Also, Gregory Silveira was a part of a plea bargain process, so prosecutors are almost certain to recommend a lighter sentence, due to that plea bargain agreement. While judges are known to give longer sentences than the prosecutors recommend, sentencing in run-of-the-mill cases tends to conform fairly close to the recommendations.
Phil Mickelson could not be reached for comment. Glenn Cohen, an associate of Mickelson’s who has spoken on his behalf in the past, also declined comment. Mr. Cohen said Mickelson obtained another lawyer to handle the Silveira case.
How the Money Laundering Happened
In March 2010, Gregory Silveira accepted a wire transfer for $2.75 million into a Wells Fargo Bank account. Court documents show that Silveira knew this payment was illegal.
Three days later, Silveira transferred $2.475 million of that cash into another Wells Fargo account, along with $275,000 into another such account with Wells Fargo. The next day, Silveira transferred $2.475 million from the one account into yet another account he owned at JPMorgan Chase Bank. These three bank transactions are the cause of his 3 money laundering convictions.
In the court documents, the money is referred to as “proceeds”, a term often used in money laundering cases. Proceeds could refer to winnings, payment of a gambling debt, or simply the moving of cash to an offshore account. The prosecutors have not given information on what proceeds mean in this case, though it is reasonable to surmize the $2.75 million involved the payment of gaming debts.
No Comments from Government Officials
The investigation on the Gregory Silveira case was handled by the Los Angeles office of the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS office declined comment on the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Yang presented the case in court. Mr. Yang also declined to elaborate. He did tell a reporter who contacted him, “We’re only allowed to reveal what has been publicly filed or publicly known….I can’t confirm or deny anything beyond what is in filed papers.“