ESPN Quotes Jeff Ifrah on the Conviction of Gambler Billy Walters for Insider Trading
David Purdum and Bob Harig
April 10, 2017
NEW YORK — William “Billy” Walters, a Las Vegas gambler linked to golfer Phil Mickelson, was found guilty of insider trading charges on Friday.
The verdict capped a three-week trial in federal court in New York City. The 70-year-old sports gambler was convicted by a jury that deliberated over two days.
“I just lost the biggest bet of my life,” Walters said outside Manhattan federal court minutes after the jury returned its verdict. “To say I was surprised would be the biggest understatement of my life. Frankly, I’m in total shock.”
As the verdict was returned on 10 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud, Walters shook his head repeatedly.
Walters’ lawyer, Berry Burke, said the verdict will be appealed.
For four decades, other gamblers have tried to be Billy Walters while investigators have tried to bring him down. And for four decades, the world’s most successful sports bettor has outrun them all.
Following his second round at the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, Mickelson was asked for his reaction to the verdict and replied, “I’m going to pass.”
U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel set sentencing for July 14 and agreed to prosecution demands that Walters submit to electronic monitoring and give up use of his private plane. Over a prosecutor’s objection, Castel permitted Walters to return with his family on his plane to southern California, where he will reside until sentencing.
Prosecutors said Walters made over $40 million illegally from 2008 to 2015 trading on the stock of Dean Foods Co. Thomas Davis, a former Dean Foods board chairman, testified that he fed Walters tips about major developments involving the company before they became known publicly. The Dallas-based Dean Foods is one of the nation’s largest processors of milk for retailers.
According to the press release announcing the indictment in May 2016, Count one carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Counts two through 10 each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The charges also carry a maximum fine of $5 million, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
Legal experts suggested to ESPN that Walters is likely facing five to 10 years in prison and will be forced to pay back all ill-gotten gains.
Douglas Berman, a professor of law at Ohio State University, said Walters, given the amount of money involved, is looking at a sentencing guideline range of upwards of 10 years in prison.
Jeff Ifrah, a prominent Washington, D.C.-based attorney familiar with the case, also expects a sentence of “eight to 10 years.”
Mickelson never testified in the case, though he had been on a list of prospective witnesses.
During the trial, Berke used Mickelson as proof that his client was innocent, saying that if Walters had inside information, “the last thing you would do is give it to Phil Mickelson, one of the most famous athletes in the world who is going to attract regulatory scrutiny.”
ESPN’s David Purdum and Bob Harig and The Associated Press contributed to this report.