Long known as a gambler on the course, Phil Mickelson now has his name linked to illegal gambling off it.
According to a report published Monday by ESPN’s Outside the Lines, nearly $3 million from Mickelson’s coffers made its way through an intermediary into an offshore gambling ring “which accepted and placed bets on sporting events.”
Though Mickelson has not been charged with a crime and is not under federal investigation, the story notes, “a 56-year-old former sports gambling handicapper, known as a conduit for an offshore gambling operation, pleaded guilty last week to laundering approximately $2.75 million of money that sources told Outside the Lines belonged to Mickelson.”
The story names that “conduit” as Gregory Silveira of La Quinta, who reached a deal with prosecutors in which he “pleaded guilty to three counts of money laundering of funds from an unnamed ‘gambling client’ of his between February 2010 and February 2013.” ESPN cited sources familiar with case who said that Mickelson is that unnamed client.
When reached by GOLF.com, Mickelson spokesman T.R. Reinman said that the Mickelson camp had no comment on the ESPN report.
According to the ESPN story, court documents detail how Silveira, in March 2010, accepted a wire transfer of $2.75 million into his Wells Fargo Bank account, knowing that the money was linked to “illegal sports betting.” He then shifted that money into other accounts in transactions that make up the money laundering charges, the ESPN story said.
Whether that $2.75 million constituted gambling winnings or losses is unclear. In court documents, the story noted, the money is described broadly as “proceeds,” a term commonly used in money laundering cases.
According to ESPN, the money-laundering probe was headed by the Internal Revenue Service and run out of its Los Angeles office.
The story went on to note this titillating detail:
Although the final plea agreement reached between Silveira and the U.S. Department of Justice does not name the ‘gambling client,’ an initial plea agreement signed last month by Silveira and his attorney, James D. Henderson Sr., contained a reference to the “money laundering of funds from P.M.” After Outside the Lines inquired about Mickelson’s potential role in the case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office on June 17 filed a motion to have the original plea agreement stricken. The next day, it filed an amended version minus any reference to “P.M.”
Silveira has an eyebrow-raising past. In the 1990s, while based in San Diego, he touted himself as a sports tipster, selling his insights to bettors in an operation that some felt was a scam. In 1991, Sports Illustrated mentioned Silveira (who also went by the names Gordie Deangelo and Gordon Michaels) in an article on sports-service scams that appeared under the headline “1-900-RIPOFFS.”
Mickelson’s fondness for friendly, if hefty, wagers is part of his fame. In 2001, he won $500 from Mike Weir when he bet the Canadian star that Jim Furyk would hole a bunker shot during a seven-hole playoff against Tiger Woods in the NEC Invitational (Furyk jarred the shot).
When the PGA Tour caught wind of the wager, Mickelson was reprimanded. But in the public eye, the bet did nothing to diminish Lefty’s standing. If anything, it enhanced his reputation as a swashbuckling risk-taker.
Last May, the Wall Street Journal reported that Mickelson was being investigated by the FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission as part of insider-trading probe that also involved the billionaire investor Carl Icahn and the professional gambler William “Billy” Walters.
As the ESPN story noted, Lefty’s name has since been cleared in one of the alleged cases of improper trading but it is unclear if he still being investigated for any other “well-timed” stock trades.