NEW YORK (Reuters) - Famed Las Vegas sports gambler William “Billy” Walters was convicted on Friday of insider trading charges in a scheme that prosecutors said enabled him to make more than $40 million and involved a stock tip to star professional golfer Phil Mickelson.
In their second day of deliberations, jurors found Walters, 70, guilty on all 10 counts he faced, including securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy, following a three-week trial in federal court in Manhattan.
“Today, Billy Walters lost his bet that he could cheat the securities markets and get away with it scot-free,” acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said in a statement.
Walters, who built a fortune as one of the most successful U.S. sports bettors, expressed disbelief to reporters after hearing the six-man, six-woman jury’s verdict.
“If I had made a bet I would have lost. I just did lose the biggest bet of my life,” Walters said. “Frankly I’m in total shock.”
Barry Berke, Walters’ lawyer, said he would appeal. Walters is scheduled to be sentenced on July 14.
Walters was charged in May after a high-profile probe focused on what prosecutors called his scheme to obtain confidential tips about Dean Foods Co from its chairman, Thomas Davis.
Prosecutors said that from 2008 to 2014, Walters generated $32 million of profit and avoided $11 million of losses by trading on inside information about Dean Foods from Davis.
Walters earned another $1 million trading on a tip about Darden Restaurants Inc, operator of the Olive Garden restaurant chain, they said.
Davis, who testified against Walters as part of a plea deal, told jurors he passed tips ahead of Dean Foods’ earnings reports and a 2012 spinoff of part of its business, using “burner” phones.
Prosecutors said Walters at one point made a recommendation to Mickelson that the golfer, who at the time owed him a gambling debt, buy Dean Foods stock.
Mickelson was not accused of wrongdoing and did not testify at trial, but he reached an agreement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2016 to pay back $1.03 million the regulator said he earned trading the dairy company’s stock.
At trial, Berke argued Davis had lied to get a sweetheart deal for himself. He contended Walters won big as a stock trader the same way he did as a sports gambler - with diligent research and keen instincts.
The case is U.S. v. Davis et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-cr-00338.
Reporting by Nate Raymond and Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler and Lisa Shumaker