Lee, King linked to crime families Senate concludes 2 days of hearings

August 13, 1992|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- A former Mafia capo and an FBI informer accused current International Boxing Federation president Bob Lee of accepting a $3,000 bribe in 1981 to win approval of a promoter's license for a reputed drug dealer, spicing the final day of testimony at a Senate subcommittee's investigation into corruption in professional boxing.

Promoter Don King was also linked to four Mafia crime families, helping to strengthen support for the proposed bill by Sen. Bill Roth, R-Del., to create a national board to standardize boxing regulations and investigate allegations of misconduct and corruption.

Lee, under advisement from his attorney, Carl Rowan Jr., sought protection under the fifth amendment to all questions yesterday.

"These charges were first brought against me when I was deputy commissioner of the New Jersey Athletic Commission," said Lee. "I was brought before the New Jersey grand jury in 1982, and they found no reason to convict me of anything."

Said Rowan: "The FBI's so-called 'Crown Royal' operation was the biggest dud ever conducted by the Justice Department. [Former FBI agent] Joe Spinelli has simply resurrected these 10-year-old charges. It makes for great theater and will help convince a few members of Congress that the federal government needs to regulate boxing."

Lee was heard on tape telling "Bobby" he would require $3,000 to influence then-New Jersey boxing commissioner Jersey Joe Walcott, the former heavyweight champion, to speed the promoter's license approval. Lee reportedly took the bribe at a meeting at the Playboy Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J., Dec. 19, 1981.

Before refusing to testify yesterday, Lee denied accepting the bribe and noted that Bobby was never granted a promoter's license. He said Bobby voluntarily gave him the money to aid him in his unsuccessful 1983 campaign to become president of the World Boxing Association.

Bobby, an alleged former fight trainer, manager and promoter now serving time for drug trafficking, refuted Lee's contention. His identity was shielded by a protective screen while he gave testimony.

Videotapes from 1983 presented by Spinelli showed FBI undercover agents meeting with Rev. Al Sharpton and Genovese family capo Danny Pagano discussing ways to forge a boxing alliance with King.

Accusations against King also were made by Michael Franzese, a former captain in the Colombo La Cosa Nostra who is now imprisoned for racketeering.

Using the pretense that they needed to launder $3 million, Bobby and Victor Guerrero, another FBI undercover agent in Operation Royal Crown, ultimately were introduced to King by Franzese, whose father was the one-time underboss of the Colombo La Costa Nostra.

Allegiances reportedly were formed, but the FBI probe ended before any indictments were made.

King, currently under investigation by the FBI in New York, pleaded the fifth to all questions in a deposition taken by the Senate probers.

Franzese was more forthcoming. He said he once served as an unlicensed co-manager of former middleweight champions Vito Antuofermo and Davey Moore. Franzese said he won big wagers betting on "fixed" fights, including betting against a sickly Moore in his losing title match with Roberto Duran at Madison Square Garden in 1983.

The Senate committee also heard testimony from World Boxing Council president Jose Sulaiman, WBA legal counsel James Binns and Dan Duva, who promotes the fights of undisputed heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.

Sulaiman, often labeled a "tool," vehemently denied accepting any money from the promoter to improve the ratings of King-aligned fighters.

Duva brushed off suggestions that he and his father, Lou Duva, who trains fighters, created a conflict of interest for their boxers.

"We're very aware of that public perception," he said, "but we go out of the way to make sure the fighters all have their own attorneys and accountants to protect them."

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