News
May 07, 2020

Gambler tied to Phil Mickelson released from prison early

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Bloomberg

Las Vegas businessman and gambler Billy Walters, whose insider-trading case was linked to Phil Mickelson, was released early from a five-year prison sentence this week.

According to his lawyer, Richard Wright, Walters was released to his home due to his age, as it made him vulnerable to COVID-19 in prison. He will serve out the remainder of his sentence in Carlsbad, Calif.

“I want to thank all my friends and supporters for their well wishes on the occasion of my release from prison and move to home confinement,” Walters said in a statement. “I am extremely grateful to be in the safe environment of my home, with my loving family, during this pandemic. At 73, I feel quite healthy and will follow all of the guidelines for staying that way.”

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In 2017, Walters was convicted in U.S. District Court of securities fraud, conspiracy and wire fraud. Prosecutors argued that from 2008 to 2014, Walters made more than $43 million from trades of Dean Foods by realizing profits and avoiding losses thanks to information he had obtained from former company chairman Tom Davis. At the urging of Walters, Mickelson (a golf partner of Walters) began to trade in Dean Foods stock, and made more than $931,000 in profits after buying and selling holdings between July and August 2012. Mickelson’s trading in Dean Foods was used as evidence against Walters, but Mickelson did not testify at trial. The golfer’s lawyers informed the prosecution and defense that if called by either side, Mickelson would decline to testify based on his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The government had no proof whether Mickelson knew where Walters’ information was coming from, and thus could not know if he intended to violate the laws against insider trading. But the SEC did name Mickelson a “relief defendant” in a civil case, meaning that the agency believed that he profited from insider trading in Dean Foods, even if he didn’t engage in it himself. Mickelson settled that civil case by agreeing to surrender his trading profits plus interest of more than $100,000. In doing so, Mickelson neither admitted nor denied the allegations in the SEC’s complaint.

Walters’ civil case remains ongoing, regarding a $25.4 million fine from his Dean Foods stock trades. Arguments on the case are scheduled for June 1.