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Gregory Silveira sentenced in money-laundering case; gambler tied to Phil Mickelson

LOS ANGELES -- For the second time in as many weeks, Phil Mickelson's connection to sports gambling surfaced in a federal criminal proceeding, this time on Monday, when a California man was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison for transferring nearly $3 million of the pro golfer's money to "an illegal gambling operation."

Gregory Silveira, an avid golfer who authorities said had ties to offshore gambling, pleaded guilty last year to three counts of laundering funds from an unnamed "gambling client" of his between February 2010 and February 2013. Outside the Lines, citing sources, identified Mickelson as the client.

In court filings, prosecutors said the gambler had used the 57-year-old Silveira, who lists residences in both the Palm Springs area and San Diego, as a conduit to pay a $2.7 million gambling debt he owed to an offshore sportsbook. Silveira's attorney stated in a subsequent filing that Silveira was "friends with a number of individuals who are also avid golfers" and, in this instance, had done a "personal favor to an individual who did not wish his wagering activity to become public."

Mickelson, one of the top stars of the PGA Tour, made news last month when a federal insider trading investigation focused on his chummy relationship with sports gambling icon Billy Walters, himself a popular figure on the tour's pro-am circuit. Mickelson allegedly received an insider trading tip from Walters, which resulted in the Hall of Fame golfer pocketing $931,000 off the purchase and sale of stock in little more than a week -- money that authorities said he used to pay back a debt owed to Walters.

While Walters faces federal charges and is free on $25 million bail, Mickelson was spared criminal charges. The Securities and Exchange Commission alleged he benefited only from the misdeeds of others, and Mickelson agreed to repay the $931,000, plus interest.

Mickelson, a 42-time PGA Tour winner and one of the game's wealthiest and most popular players, has not been charged with a crime as a result of either federal investigation, unlike his associates -- Silveira and Walters.

Mickelson could not be reached for immediate comment.

Sources close to the California money-laundering case said there was no connection between it and the insider trading investigation led out of New York. Mickelson did meet with federal agents in the insider-trading case and, according to court documents, he provided a two-page statement to authorities in the California money-laundering case. That statement is not, however, part of the case file and has not been made public.

The California case started with the IRS' criminal investigation in Los Angeles. According to court documents, in March 2010, Silveira -- a participant in "an illegal gambling operation which accepted and placed bets on sporting events" -- accepted a wire transfer of $2.75 million from a "gambling client" into his Wells Fargo Bank account, which he knew was part of "illegal sports betting." Three days later, Silveira transferred $2.475 million and then $275,000 into another of his Wells Fargo accounts. The next day, Silveira transferred the $2.475 million to another account he controlled at JPMorgan Chase Bank. The three transactions are the source of the money-laundering charges: "At the time, defendant initiated these three transfers with the intent to promote the carrying on of an illegal gambling operation," according to the plea agreement, which was signed last year.

Sentencing in the case had been delayed multiple times over the past year, with Silveira twice changing attorneys and at one point unsuccessfully trying to withdraw his guilty plea before U.S. District Court Justice Virginia A. Phillips.

The government had recommended Silveira be sentenced to five months in prison, but an angry Phillips instead imposed the lengthier sentence and added an $18,000 fine and three years of supervised release. Phillips believed Silveira had misled the court by saying he had never been a bookmaker or been associated with a gambling operation.

"I am the dumbest money-launderer that ever existed," Silveira told the judge during the hearing. "I wasn't trying to conceal anything."