Four top officials of the Int’l Boxing Federation, including its president, Robert W. Lee Sr., have been charged in a federal Indictment with running the East Orange, N.J.-based IBF as a racketeering enterprise, in which fighters’ rankings were routinely altered in exchange for bribes from boxing promoters, managers and others, Acting U.S. Attorney Robert J. Cleary said Nov. 4.
Following the payment of bribes to IBF officials, fighters advanced in the IBF ratings, where previously they may have had no rating at all or had been ranked lower, according to the indictment. “Professional boxing is built on the ranking system,” Cleary said. “Favorable rankings can mean the difference between obscurity for a boxer and a shot at a title bout and a potentially big payday.”
The Indictment alleges that payments from promoters, managers and others to the defendants ranged from $1,000 to $25,000 to change fighters’ ratings. In one instance, a promoter paid $100,000 in 1995 to influence the IBF to grant a special exception for the heavyweight champion to defend his title against a specific opponent who was previously unranked in the IBF. In May 1995, defendants Lee, Sr., Robert W. Lee, Jr., Donald W. Brennan and others solicited and accepted another $100,000 to mandate a rematch between those same fighters. Lee, Sr., Brennan and others also laundered in excess of $150,000 in bribe proceeds to avoid detection by law enforcement and further their criminal activity.
In all, the Indictment describes 32 instances of payments being made by boxing promoters, managers and others to the defendants to influence IBF boxer ratings and executive decisions between 1985 and 1998. The Indictment also seeks forfeiture of $338,000 from the defendants allegedly taken through their association with the IBF as a criminal enterprise.
Defendants Lee, Sr., Brennan and Francisco (aka “Pancho,” aka “Pacho”) Fernandez, a Colombian, each violated federal money laundering law by conspiring to conduct financial transactions to conceal the proceeds of unlawful activity, according to the Indictment. They did this by funneling checks mostly through business accounts to make the payoffs appear legitimate. Lee, Sr., Brennan and Fernandez each violated federal fraud statutes, allegedly by using the U.S. mail, telephone and facsimile communications as part of a scheme to obtain money from the IBF membership and registration and sanction fees from boxers and promoters, while representing that the IBF maintained fair and unbiased systems of rankings.
Each of the defendants is charged in Counts One and Two with racketeering and racketeering conspiracy. Both counts carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Lee, Sr., is also charged with 11 counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud, 12 counts of interstate travel in aid of racketeering, two counts of use of an interstate facility in aid of racketeering and one count of money laundering conspiracy. Lee, Jr., is also charged with two counts of wire fraud and five counts of interstate travel in aid of racketeering. Brennan is also charged with seven counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, nine counts of interstate travel in aid of racketeering and one count of money-laundering conspiracy. Fernandez is also charged with five counts of mail fraud, three counts of interstate travel in aid of racketeering, one count of use of an interstate facility in aid of racketeering and one count of money laundering conspiracy. Fernandez was not arrested and is believed to be in Colombia. A warrant is outstanding for his arrest.
Mail fraud and wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count, as do the counts charging use of an interstate facility in aid of racketeering and travel in aid of racketeering. [USAO D.N.J., Media Release 11/4/99]