Gam­bler tied to Phil Mick­el­son gets 5 years in prison

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

NEW YORK — A Las Ve­gas gam­bler linked to golfer Phil Mick­el­son was sen­tenced this week to five years in prison by a judge who said the busi­ness­man col­lected tens of mil­lions of dol­lars il­le­gally in the stock mar­ket to seem like “a win­ner” to him­self and oth­ers.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge P. Kevin Cas­tel re­jected the rec­om­men­da­tion of pro­ba­tion of­fi­cials and a lawyer for Wil­liam “Billy” Walters that he serve only a year in prison, but still im­posed a sen­tence less than the min­i­mum of eight years called for by fed­eral sen­tenc­ing guide­lines. He also fined him $10 mil­lion.

“When it comes to the stock mar­ket, Billy Walters is a cheater and a crim­i­nal and not a very clever one,” Cas­tel said, call­ing the crime “am­a­teur­ishly sim­ple.”

He noted Walters was a mi­nor celebrity in Las Ve­gas with a pri­vate plane, a $17 mil­lion West Coast home and $175 mil­lion in earn­ings from 2011 to 2015.

The judge said Walters looked to el­e­vate him­self when he be­friended for­mer Dal­las-based Dean Foods board chair­man Thomas Davis, get­ting him to di­vulge se­crets he then traded on.

Cas­tel said Walters was “fix­ated on ap­pear­ing to him­self and oth­ers to be a win­ner.”

“Money was a way of keep­ing score,” Cas­tel said.

Prose­cu­tors said Walters be­gan trad­ing in 2006 on se­crets Davis told him about the na­tion’s largest pro­ces­sor and dis­trib­u­tor of fresh milk, amass­ing over $40 mil­lion in il­le­gal prof­its through 2014. Davis, who pleaded guilty to charges, tes­ti­fied against Walters at an April trial. He awaits sen­tenc­ing.

Mick­el­son was not men­tioned by name dur­ing the sen­tenc­ing, though the judge al­luded to him as he de­scribed how Walters drew oth­ers into his cor­rup­tion.

The govern­ment said Mick­el­son earned nearly $1 mil­lion af­ter Walters told him to buy Dean Foods stock in 2012, prof­its Mick­el­son gave Walters to cover gam­bling debts. The Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Com­mis­sion cited Mick­el­son for the trades in a law­suit, and Mick­el­son agreed to re­pay the money. Mick­el­son was not charged.

Cas­tel noted “large and splashy dis­plays of phi­lan­thropy” by Walters — some likely funded by his crimes — and said he cred­ited him for quiet, un­der-the-radar gifts that “say some­thing about the man’s char­ac­ter.”

Those in­cluded pay­ing med­i­cal school costs and buy­ing a car for a stu­dent whose car broke down, fund­ing a fam­ily va­ca­tion and salary for a young em­ployee while his wife was dy­ing and help­ing an­other ac­quain­tance make it to his fa­ther’s fu­neral in Ro­ma­nia.

Given the op­por­tu­nity to speak, Walters barely said any­thing be­yond thank­ing the judge for read­ing ev­ery­thing sub­mit­ted on his be­half.

Af­ter be­ing sen­tenced, a smil­ing Walters hugged his wife and oth­ers while po­litely de­clin­ing com­ment as he left court. He was told to re­port to prison Oct. 10.

In a re­lease, U.S. At­tor­ney Joon H. Kim said Walters cheated his way to prof­its through mas­sive, per­fectly timed trades.

“Mak­ing mil­lions in the stock mar­ket with a deck stacked in your fa­vor leads to time in a fed­eral pen­i­ten­tiary,” he said.

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