Possible Jordan gambling payment brings probe

March 20, 1992|By Sam Smith and Melissa Isaacson | Sam Smith and Melissa Isaacson,Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- The NBA confirmed yesterday that it would begin investigating newspaper reports out of North Carolina that more than $100,000 in checks, apparently from Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan to satisfy gambling debts, have turned up in the estate of a South Carolina bail bondsman.

This follows other reports alleging that a $57,000 check from Jordan had been confiscated from a North Carolina man convicted of cocaine possession with intent to sell and now under indictment on an unrelated money-laundering charge. Jordan and the man, James "Slim" Bouler, said the money was a loan for a driving range.

"We're going to be looking into this," NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre said yesterday.

Although Jordan has not been accused of any crime, the NBA says it will examine the allegations under its so-called "good-conduct rule." That addresses issues of moral character and the integrity of the game.

Although betting on NBA games is expressly forbidden -- and no one has accused Jordan of any such behavior -- sports leagues advise players to refrain from business arrangements with people of questionable character.

The reason is that if a player should fall into debt or be put in an embarrassing situation, he might be asked to or agree to do something that might influence the outcome of a game.

After scoring 51 points in last night's 106-100 victory over Washington at the Capital Centre, Jordan said, "I am totally out of that situation. I have no further comment."

The Gastonia Gazette, a newspaper in a suburb of Charlotte, reported yesterday that the estate of slain bail bondsman Eddie Dow included checks of $11,000 and $20,000, apparently signed by Jordan from his personal account at a Northbrook bank. Dow was fatally shot Feb. 19 at his North Carolina home.

One was a bearer check and another payable to Dean Chapman, a longtime friend of Dow, according to Dow's attorney, Stephen Gheen.

The newspaper quoted Gheen as saying the two checks were repayments of loans to Jordan so he could gamble and payments "from winnings from various gambling wagers on golf games and poker games in which Jordan and sometimes Eddie participated."

Gheen was quoted as saying Jordan and Dow often wagered $1,000 per hole in golf matches.

The newspaper also reported that a third check for $77,000 drawn on a Washington bank and payable to Chapman had been found among Dow's possessions.

In today's editions, The Charlotte Observer, which disclosed last fall Jordan's $57,000 payment to Bouler, is quoting Gheen as saying the $77,000 represents money Dow, Chapman and three others won from Jordan at Jordan's home in Hilton Head, S.C., just before the start of the 1991-92 season.

Eddie Dow's brother, Freddie "Flip" Dow, was quoted in the Observer: "Michael invited Eddie and some friends to play three or four days at a time. He [Jordan] just likes to play golf and a little bit of poker and put a little bit of money on it."

Dow was quoted as saying his brother didn't play golf, but bet on others' matches and loaned golfers and poker players money for gambling.

The Observer said the $77,000 cashier's check was consecutive with the $57,000 check, both dated Oct. 17, 1991, that federal officials have alleged was a gambling payoff to Bouler.

The Observer quoted a Beaufort County, S.C., sheriff's official as saying they were "absolutely interested" in the checks. Gambling is a misdemeanor in South Carolina.

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