To most people, Gregory Silviera is an ordinary businessman with a passion for golfing. What most didn’t know, until recently, is that Mr. Silviera is actually involved in illegal off shore gambling, and money laundering. During his court appearance he feigned ignorance to any wrongdoing, even claiming to be “the dumbest money launderer ever” for not trying to conceal his activities. Yet he managed to move $2.7 million dollars for pro golfer Phil Mickelson to pay off a gambling debt to an off shore sports book.
Silviera, 57, had houses in Palm Springs and San Diego, and has been called an avid golfer. He also had at least two bank accounts with Wells Fargo, and one with JP Morgan Chase Bank. Accounts that were used to bounce several thousand, even millions, of dollars from Phil Mickelson to an illegal sports gambling debt. A debt that Mickelson tried to keep under wraps and out of public consumption.
Many people may be wondering why this is such a big deal. So a professional golfer gives a friend some money to pay off a debt for him, where is the problem? The problem comes in when a person has something to hide. Phil Mickelson clearly felt he did. It isn’t strictly illegal for professional athletes to bet on sporting events, in fact that is a rather gray area. But when you use an offshore sports betting program to avoid paying taxes to the government, it’s illegal no matter who you are.
It’s also illegal to “wash” money. In fact Silviera’s participation in this scheme cost him twelve months and one day in prison, an $18,000 fine, and three years of supervised release. Pretty hefty punishment for “a personal favor”. How did the favor go so wrong? It’s simply a matter of locations. And just like in Real Estate, location is everything.
Most people may wonder exactly how money laundering works. In this case it was fairly simple. Phil Mickelson made bets with an off shore gambling operation. Most likely to keep his gambling private. When Mickelson wound up owing on bets, he wanted to make sure the money would not be traced back to himself. In comes Gregory Silveira. March of 2010 saw a wire transfer in the amount of $2.75 million dollars into a Wells Fargo account earmarked for illegal sports betting.Three days later $2.475 million, followed by $275,000, is moved into a second Wells Fargo account. The following day Silveira transferred $2.475 million into an account with JP Morgan Chase Bank. With so much money bouncing between multiple accounts, it’s hard to tell whose money is where.
Finally the law caught up with Silviera. He originally plead guilty to three counts of money laundering. Over the course of a year the sentencing phase of the case would go through many hurdles and delays, including Silviera changing attorneys twice and attempting to withdraw his guilty plea (albeit unsuccessfully). So far no charges have been brought against Mickelson in this particular case. He did not attend Silvier’s court hearings, but did send a two page statement to the authorities. Those documents were not made part of the official court record or made available to the public. Whatever Mickelson said will most likely remain a mystery, but possibly had interesting ramifications on the case.
When sentencing for Silveira was finally handed down, the government recommended only 5 months in jail. However U.S. Court Justice Virginia A. Phillips had a different idea in mind. Due to her unbelief of Silveira’s claims to innocence and stupidity she imposed the much lengthier sentence, the fine, and the release conditions. Gregory Silveira may have been able to sway Phil Mickelson on what a great guy he is, but Ms. Phillips wasn’t buying it.
Gregory Silveira decided to take a gamble for a friend, and much like Phil Mickelson, had to pay a huge debt for his risk. It may have seemed like a very small gamble at the time. But as it is with most criminal activities; you never think you will be caught until you are. Money laundering may seem like a petty crime in light of recent events. Most people refer to it as a victimless crime. But as Gregory Silveira has discovered, sometimes petty crimes can make the criminal the only victim