Phil Mickelson is notorious for playing rather expensive money matches during practice rounds with his fellow competitors on the PGA Tour, and his love of gambling is no secret, either.
But few could have suspected the fan-favorite Mickelson, with his bright smile and effervescent personality, participated in illegal sports betting to the tune of nearly $3 million.
According to an investigation conducted by the Internal Revenue Service in Los Angeles, Gregory Silveira moved approximately $2.75 million to an offshore gambling operation that allegedly belonged to Mickelson.
Silveira pled guilty to the charges last week in a plea agreement, and while the gambling client was unnamed, a reference was made in earlier court documents to the “money laundering of funds from P.M.”
Mulligans Not Available
Silveira, a 56-year-old living in La Quinta, California, just a 20-mile drive from Mickelson’s primary residence in Rancho Santa Fe, admitted he accepted a wire transfer of $2.75 million in March 2010 into an account he owned at Wells Fargo.
Three days later, he made two transactions consisting of $2.475 million and $275,000 to another Wells Fargo account, before finally pushing the $2.475 million to an account he controlled at JP Morgan Chase.
Jerry Yang, assistant US attorney for the Central District Court of California, says Silveira’s actions constitute money laundering as the defendant knew the proceeds were the result of illegal sports betting from an operation he controlled, or at least participated.
“Beginning on a date unknown, but not later than February 2010, defendant Gregory Silveira participated in the operation of an illegal gambling operation, which accepted and placed bets on sporting events,” the plea agreement read.
For his actions, Silveira faces up to 60 years imprisonment and a fine more than $1.5 million, though both charges are expected to be greatly reduced in exchange for the plea deal reached.
Swing and a Miss
Many might expect Mickelson to be investigated now that his purported bookmaker has admitted guilt to money laundering and participating in an illegal sports betting ring, but legal analysts say that isn’t likely.
According to Lester Munson, legal affairs and investigations reporter for ESPN, federal law targets the operators and businesses of criminal activity, not the individual participators.
“Enacted in 1970 as part of a package of legislation known as the Organized Crime Control Act, federal gambling statutes are aimed at businesses,” Munson said of the Mickelson case.
Though Mickelson could have been charged if there was adequate proof he knowingly participated in a criminal enterprise, the fact that he hasn’t been clearly named in the proceedings lead many to believe sufficient evidence isn’t available.
“If federal investigators discovered that Mickelson had been complicit in the concealment, Mickelson could have been charged with conspiracy to launder his money,” Munson writes. “But in the absence of an email or a recorded conversation or an overt action in support of the concealment, Mickelson has not been and will not be charged.”
It’s not the first time Lefty has seemingly avoided potentially serious charges.
In May of 2014, the FBI and SEC investigated Mickelson, along with billionaire investor Carl Icahn and professional gambler Billy Walters, over some well-timed trades in Clorox.
While the probe concluded there was no evidence Mickelson participated in insider trading, Icahn and Walters are still under investigation.
Mickelson also publicly expressed disdain for California’s exorbitant taxes in 2013. “If you add up all the federal and you look at the disability and the unemployment and the Social Security and the state, my tax rate’s 62, 63 percent,” Mickelson said. “So I’ve got to make some decisions on what I’m going to do.”