Before leaving office, President Trump surprised everyone by saving popular Las Vegas gambler Billy Walters. Billy Walters was sentenced and convicted almost 4 years ago following accusations of insider training. Walters was sentenced in July 2017 to serve 5 years in prison but now that his charges have been commuted, Walters is a free man.
Walters was convicted by a federal jury but he was released from a Florida federal prison in spring 2020 thanks to a provision in the CARES Act. Before the presidential commutation, Walters was therefore serving the remainder of his sentence from his Carlsbad home in California.
Commutations may sound similar to presidential pardons, but they aren’t. A pardon gives total absolution while a commutation only reduces one’s sentence. As such, Walters will still have his conviction in his record.
The former President pardoned Walters after he received immense support from various high-profile individuals in society including former Senate Majority Leader Henry Reid, ex-Clark County, Nev. Sheriff William Young, former Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, as well as one time NYC Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik. He also received letters of support from various professional athletes including golfing veteran Phil Mickelson.
Before his conviction was commuted, Walters has served almost 4 of his 5-year prison sentence. He had also reportedly paid almost $44 million in fines, forfeitures, as well as restitution. Aside from his great standing in the sports and gambling industry in Vegas and the country, Walters was also famed for his philanthropic efforts. At one time, he had even been crowned Las Vegas’ Philanthropist of the Year.
Before he was convicted, Walters was once regarded as one of the country’s best sports punters, having made millions since he started in the 80s. Walters used most of his sports betting wins to invest in various car dealerships and golf courses.
So what really happened with Billy Walters?
Billy Walters was convicted by a federal jury after he was accused of using information from a former chairman at Dean Foods to buy and sell the company’s stock, where he walked away with ill-gotten millions. After the investigation into Dean Foods was completed, which is the largest dairy company in the country, Walters was convicted on 10 counts of insider training.
According to prosecutors, Walters acted on tips that he had received from Tom Davis, a former chairman at the mega-corporation. The information that was supplied by Davis helped Walters make millions illegally. In addition to his 5-year sentence, Walters was also ordered to pay $25.4 million in fines, which is the number of profits that prosecutors could prove he made through insider trading.
Prosecutors at the time claimed that Walters managed to pocket $43 million as a result of the tips. Walters tried and failed several times to appeal his conviction with his attorneys claiming that the grand jury reports were fed to the press in a bid to sway popular opinion. However, his lawyers failed to sway his way having exhausted all his appeals when the Supreme Court finally turned him down.
The insider trading court case that consequently led to Walters’ conviction received a lot of media attention. That was partly due to Walters’ stature in the gambling industry but also because the case also involved legendary pro golfer Phil Mickelson. According to reports, Mickelson owed gambling related debts to Walters so when Walters used the tips he had received, Mickelson made almost $1 million by default.
During the trial, Mickelson refused to testify on Walters’ behalf after pleading the Fifth Amendment. Ultimately, Davis was sentenced to 2 years after accepting the guilty plea for sharing tips with Walter. And even though Mickelson walked away Scott free, he was fined almost $1 million by the SEC.
The 74-year-old was housed at the Federal Prison Camp Pensacola, a minimum-security facility. He was scheduled to be released on January 10th 2022 according to reports from the US Bureau of Prisons. This is also the same facility that housed disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy who served time in connection to a game fixing scandal 10 years ago.
During the trial, he was represented by popular John Dowd. The same lawyer was also Trump’s lead counsel when he was being accused of interfering in the 2016 election alongside the Russians.
Apart from Walters the president also pardons 2 others accused of betting charges
In his final hours in office, the president issues pardons and commutations to various individuals that run the gamut from friends and supporters of his, well known political figures, rappers, as well as defendants in various high profile criminal cases.
In total, the former president issued pardons to 73 individuals and commuted sentences for 70 more. Several of the pardons issued involved people charged or convicted for gambling crimes. One of the individuals lucky enough was New York Art Dealer Hillel “Helly” Nahmad. Nahmad had been sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison after admitting to operating an illegal gambling den that involved wall stress execs, various Hollywood celebrities, as well as notable athletes.
Before his conviction, Nahmad had occupied the entire 51st floor at the Trump Tower in New York. It is not clear whether he still resides there. The former president also pardoned Casey Urlacher, younger brother of former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher. Urlacher was one of 10 individuals that were charged by federal prosecutors for running an illegal offshore sports wagering scheme in Chicago.
Among the supporters that he pardoned include Charles Kushner, his son-in-law, and senior adviser’s dad, Jared Kushner. He also pardoned Paul Manafort, his 2016 campaign chairman, and Roger J. Stone Jr., his longtime informal adviser, and friend who had been accused of seven felony crimes.