Feds say FBI leaked info to media in Phil Mickelson-related probe

An FBI agent leaked confidential information to the Wall Street Journal and New York Times while investigating golfer Phil Mickelson and businessman and renowned sports bettor Billy Walters over allegations of insider trading, according to a letter filed by the Department of Justice on Friday in federal court.

Three weeks after the initial filing, the Department of Justice identified the agent in court documents published Jan. 4 as FBI Coordinating Supervisory Special Agent David Chaves. Chaves worked out of the New York Division and oversaw securities and white collar investigations.

In the filing, the government reveals that an agent "admitted that he was a significant source of confidential information leaked to reporters at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times about the underlying investigation."

"The agent further admitted that, prior to his Dec. 6 interview, he had hidden those communications with the press from both the USAO and others within the FBI," the letter, submitted by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, states. "Based upon the agent's admissions, which the USAO and the FBI regard with the utmost seriousness, it is now an incontrovertible fact that there were FBI leaks of confidential information to the press regarding this investigation."

The disclosure of confidential information could be a violation of criminal procedure. The matter has been referred to the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Justice, and the FBI has reported the agent to its Office of Professional Responsibility, according to the letter.

The leaks to the Wall Street Journal and New York Times resulted in seven articles between May 30, 2014, and June 23, 2014, and led to an indictment of Walters and former executive of Dean Foods, Thomas C. Davis. According to the government, the articles included "sensitive and confidential details, including trades being examined, records being analyzed, the name of an individual approached by the FBI and the supposed targets of the investigation."

Mickelson was approached by FBI agents on May 30, 2014, as he was making his way off the course after the first round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. He was not criminally charged in the probe, but he did agree to pay back $1.03 million in "ill-gotten gains" from 2011 stocks trades that he and Walters made on Dean Foods.

Walters has denied any wrongdoing. He is charged with multiple counts of securities and wire fraud. Walters' attorney did not immediately respond to request for comment. A jury trial is scheduled for May 13 in New York.