April 5, 2017 / 10:56 PM / 2 years ago

Jury urged to convict Las Vegas gambler of insider trading

(Reuters) - A U.S. prosecutor on Wednesday urged jurors in Manhattan federal court to convict Las Vegas sports gambler William “Billy” Walters on insider trading charges, describing a pattern of “repeated conduct that can only be described as brazen.”

FILE PHOTO: Professional sports gambler William "Billy" Walters departs Federal Court after a hearing in Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S., July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

In a closing argument Wednesday afternoon, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brooke Cucinella said Walters’ trading and phone records proved that he traded in Dean Foods Co stock based on confidential tips from Tom Davis, the former chairman of Dean’s board. Davis, who has pleaded guilty to insider trading and is cooperating with prosecutors, testified during the three-week trial that he tipped Walters.

Walters’s lawyer, Barry Berke, has said that is lying and that Walters made money in Dean Foods, a leading dairy company, through diligent research, using the same talents that made him a successful sports gambler. Berke is expected to deliver his closing argument on Thursday.

Cucinella made only a brief mention of star golfer Phil Mickelson, who allegedly received a tip from Walters and whose involvement has drawn attention to the case. Mickelson has not been accused of wrongdoing and did not testify during the trial.

Instead, she focused on the timing of calls between Walters and Davis and Walters’ trades. She said there was a clear pattern, stretching over a period of years, in which Walters made large trades in Dean Foods stock after talking to Davis.

That fit with Davis’s testimony that he was giving Walters inside information, including advance notice of the company’s earnings reports and about the 2012 spinoff of part of its business, she said.

Starting in 2011, she said, Walters and Davis began communicating using so-called “burner” phones not registered in their names, she said.

Davis’s tips allowed Walters to make more than $40 million in gains and avoided losses, Cucinella said. In return, she said, Walters arranged personal loans of nearly $1 million for Davis.

Cucinella acknowledged Davis might not appear trustworthy. Davis admitted on the stand to stealing money from a charity he ran, falsifying taxes and cheating on two ex-wives.

But Cucinella said Davis’s dishonesty was the reason Walters turned to him for insider tips.

“The defendant knew exactly who Tom Davis was and how he’s cheated on everyone he’s ever met, from his wives to his fellow board members,” she said.

The case is U.S. v. Davis et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-cr-00338.

Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Bill Trott

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