Attorneys for Billy Walters Say Feds Knew of Leaks to Reporters, Chose Not to Stop It

Posted on: May 31, 2021, 10:25h. 

Last updated on: June 1, 2021, 09:38h.

Lawyers for Billy Walters said federal authorities knew about leaks of grand jury information to media regarding an insider trading investigation involving the retired sports bettor. But they allowed it to continue.

Billy Walters
Billy Walters exits a New York federal courtroom in 2017. The retired sports bettor is in court again, this time suing current and former federal officials for violating his rights during an insider trading investigation that he claims was tainted by illegal leaks to the media. (Image: Richard Drew/AP)

That information was part of a response filed Thursday to the defendants’ motions to dismiss a civil case Walters initiated last October in US District Court in Manhattan.

Walters claims that in April 2013, David Chaves, then an FBI supervisory special agent, held meetings with reporters from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to disclose information about an insider trading investigation. The alleged purposes included getting information from reporters about Walters and also trying to gather evidence about his insider trading activity.

Chaves hoped that the publication of leaked information about the investigation would ‘tickle the wire’ by causing associates or the media to call Walters to elicit incriminating statements,” the response stated. “But months of electronic surveillance yielded nothing.”

Besides Chaves, others being sued by Walters include Chaves’ former FBI boss George Venizelos and former US Attorney Preet Bharara. Others who worked in the Manhattan US Attorney’s Office are also being sued, as are 50 “Does,” as in Jane or John Doe, individuals whose identities are unknown at this point.

Leaks Targeted Others, Too

Others were investigated for insider trading as well, including businessman Carl Icahn, former Dean Foods Chairman of the Board Tom Davis, and PGA Tour golfer Phil Mickelson. Leaks in the case also involved those individuals, as the response noted The Wall Street Journal reported Mickelson was being investigated a day after FBI agents talked to him during a golf tournament.

Davis received a two-year prison term after pleading guilty. Mickelson was not charged, but agreed to surrender profits he made from trading shares of Dean stock.

Only Walters went to trial on the insider trading charges. Mickelson, who reportedly was in debt to Walters at one point, did not testify in the case – much to Walters’ chagrin – as the golfer’s lawyer said his client would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights if called.

A jury found Walters guilty in 2017 and sentenced him to five years in prison. Federal authorities released him from prison a year ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing him to serve home incarceration.

Leading up to the conviction, prosecutors denied knowing about the source of the leaks. A federal judge ordered the US Attorney’s Office to investigate the matter, but nothing happened.

Why Billy Walters is Back in Court

Walters is pursuing the civil case even after receiving a commutation in January from President Trump during his final hours in office.

According to the complaint, Walters is seeking a jury trial and both compensatory and punitive damages. In addition, he wants the jury to declare that the defendants violated his Constitutional rights.

In an interview with last fall, Pierce O’Donnell, an attorney representing Walters in the civil suit, said his client is pursuing the case because there are others who have had their rights violated, but do not have the resources to take the matter to court.

A Kentucky native, Walters rose to prominence in the 1980s after moving to Las Vegas. He helped pioneer the use of computers in making sports bets and earned millions. He then used that to invest in various businesses, including golf courses and car dealerships.