- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO — The easy money Barry Bonds made by aggressively selling his name, likeness and sports equipment through his Web site and brief autograph sessions in hotel conference rooms could prove to be the embattled slugger’s legal undoing.

A federal grand jury is probing whether he paid taxes on some of that fortune, and key government witnesses include a scorned business partner and a jilted lover who profited from the name “Barry Bonds.” He also is being investigated for accusations that he lied to another federal grand jury about his steroid use.

Legal analysts said proving the Giants star cheated the IRS out of its cut of memorabilia sales is far easier to prove than perjury.

If so, Bonds wouldn’t be the first professional athlete to run afoul of the IRS over sales of autographed jerseys, balls and baseball cards.

Pete Rose in 1990 served five months in prison for not reporting income from memorabilia. Several other prominent players — including Hall of Famers Duke Snider, Willie McCovey and Darryl Strawberry — were busted in the 1990s for not properly reporting such income.

Brian Hennigan, a Los Angeles lawyer who represented Strawberry when the baseball player pleaded guilty to tax evasion in 1995, said it’s relatively easy to fall into tax trouble because the memorabilia business is largely cash-and-carry.

Sports memorabilia is a multimillion-dollar enterprise for professional athletes. Bonds sells his jerseys for as much as $1,900 on his Web site.

“The money is so easily accessible,” Hennigan said. “There’s going to be a lot of cash, and the promoter says ‘Here is an envelope, it’s full of cash’ and it’s just handed to you and you drive away and there aren’t any forms to sign.”

Strawberry was sentenced to six months of home confinement and ordered to pay $350,000 in back taxes. Other athletes have paid fines and back taxes to settle their tax problems.

“The sentence certainly depends on how much money is involved and how long it has been going on,” Hennigan said. “If the athlete gets a lot of cash and never reports any of it, more likely than not the government is going to look at it harshly.”

The grand jury investigating Bonds’ case is expected to end its service tomorrow. However, the grand jury’s term could be extended or a new panel could be given the investigation, former prosecutors said.

It isn’t certain whether Bonds will be indicted, but it’s clear he is in a legal pickle. Laura Enos, one of Bonds’ attorneys, said the slugger’s legal team would be “crazy” if it was not preparing a defense, although she says her client is innocent and should not be indicted. She said she has no knowledge of a pending indictment.

The left fielder’s latest legal troubles began in 2003, after he told federal authorities that boyhood friend Steve Hoskins, who ran his memorabilia business, had forged his signature on contracts and sold his gear without permission.

But Hoskins countered that Bonds was giving tens of thousands of dollars in cash made from the sales to Bonds’ then-girlfriend, Kimberly Bell, according to Hoskins’ attorney, Michael Cardoza.

Bell didn’t return telephone calls.

At times, Bonds sold autographed baseballs “as fast as he could” for $100 apiece, Cardoza said. Bonds would arrange the signing sessions when Bell complained that she needed cash, according to Aphrodite Jones, who spent six months with Bell in a failed bid to publish a book about Bell’s affair with Bonds.

The specter of an indictment and of bogus Bonds paraphernalia is putting a damper on sales of Bonds’ name.

“The sale of his memorabilia is pretty soft right now, understandably so,” said Doug Allen, president of Mastro Auctions, of Burr Ridge, Ill. “There’s a lot of question marks surrounding him.”

Jones said Bell used proceeds from Bonds’ memorabilia sales to make an $80,000 down payment for a Scottsdale, Ariz. house. The government reportedly is looking into the source of the house payment in its tax-evasion investigation.

Enos said Bonds denies those allegations and will argue that Bell’s testimony amounts to “pillow talk.”

The perjury case against Bonds arose from his 2003 testimony before a grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, a nutritional supplement company exposed as the steroid supplier to top athletes. Bonds testified that he didn’t knowingly ingest steroids given to him by his personal trainer, according to grand jury transcripts obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Five men connected to BALCO pleaded guilty to steroid distribution and other charges.

Greg Anderson, Bonds’ personal trainer, served three months in prison for his role in the ring. Now, Anderson is behind bars again for refusing to testify in the ongoing Bonds’ probe.

If convicted of perjury, Bonds could face up to five years in prison. He could face another five years if convicted of money laundering.

BONDS TIMELINE:

A look at Barry Bonds and the steroid allegations surrounding him:

Dec. 4, 2003 — Barry Bonds testified to a federal grand jury that he used a clear substance and a cream given to him by personal trainer Greg Anderson, but didn’t know they were steroids, according to transcripts later obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Dec. 11, 2003 — Yankees slugger Jason Giambi told the grand jury he used steroids for at least three seasons and injected himself with human growth hormone during 2003, according to the transcripts.

Feb. 12, 2004 — Bonds’ personal trainer, Greg Anderson; track coach Remi Korchemny; BALCO president Victor Conte; and BALCO vice president James Valente charged in 42-count federal indictment with running a steroid-distribution ring that provided performance-enhancing drugs to dozens of athletes.

April 12, 2004 — The Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of androstenedione, the steroid precursor used by Mark McGwire while setting the home run record in 1998. The FDA action automatically triggered a ban by baseball.

Jan. 13, 2005 — MLB players and owners reached a new drug-testing agreement calling for more banned substances and a 10-day penalty for first-time offenders.

Feb. 14, 2005 — Former major leaguer Jose Canseco said in a new book that he injected McGwire with steroids and introduced several other players to the drugs.

March 17, 2005 — Testifying before the House Government Reform Committee, McGwire evaded questions about steroid use as he testified alongside Canseco, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro, who denied having used steroids. Lawmakers scolded commissioner Bud Selig and union leader Donald Fehr, saying baseball’s penalties were too lenient.

April 3, 2005 — Tampa Bay outfielder Alex Sanchez became the first player suspended for steroids under the league’s new policy.

April 25, 2005 — Selig asked players to agree to a 50-game suspension for first-time steroid offenders, a 10-game ban for second offenders and a lifetime ban for a third violation. He asked that amphetamines be tested for, that there be more frequent testing and that administration of drug testing be shifted to an independent person from the management-union committee.

July 15, 2005 — Conte and Anderson pleaded guilty to steroid distribution and money laundering, and Valente pleaded guilty to one count of distributing illegal steroids.

July 29, 2005 — Korchemny pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of doling out the sleep-disorder drug modafinil.

Aug. 1, 2005 — Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days for testing positive for stanozolol, becoming the most prominent player to be penalized for steroids. Twelve players in all were suspended in 2005, each for 10 days.

Sept. 26, 2005 — Fehr countered Selig by proposing a 20-game suspension for first offense, a 75-game penalty for second and leaving the penalty for a third positive to the commissioner’s discretion. Union said it would agree to test for amphetamines.

Sept. 28, 2005 — Career home run leader Hank Aaron and four other baseball Hall of Famers accompanied Selig to a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, where Sen. John McCain criticized Fehr for inaction.

Oct. 18, 2005 — Conte was sentenced to four months in prison and four months’ home confinement; Anderson sentenced to three months in prison and three months in home confinement; Valente sentenced to probation.

Nov. 15, 2005 — Players and owners agreed, subject to ratification, to Selig’s 50-game, 100-game, lifetime structure for penalties, to test for amphetamines and to shift administration of testing to an independent person.

Dec. 1, 2005 — Conte began serving a four-month prison sentence in a minimum security prison in Taft, Calif., about 120 miles from Los Angeles.

Feb. 7, 2006 — Conte settled a $25 million defamation lawsuit brought by track star Marion Jones over charges that she used banned performance-enhancing drugs.

Feb. 25, 2006 — Korchemny sentenced to a year of probation after a federal judge said she was moved by stories of his tireless coaching of track athletes.

March 7, 2006 — “Game of Shadows,” a book by San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, said Barry Bonds used a vast array of performance-enhancing drugs, including steroids and human growth hormone, for at least five seasons beginning in 1998.

March 30, 2006 — Conte released from prison and insisted he never gave performance-enhancing drugs to Barry Bonds and that “Game of Shadows” is “full of outright lies.”

April 14, 2006 — Sources said a federal grand jury is investigating whether Bonds committed perjury when he testified in 2003 that he never knowingly used steroids.

April 27, 2006 — Patrick Arnold, a noted scientist in the field of sports nutritional supplements, pleaded guilty to supplying BALCO with the performance-enhancing drug known as “the clear.”

May 6, 2006 — “Game of Shadows” authors Fainaru-Wada and Williams were called to testify before a federal grand jury investigating who leaked them the secret testimony of Bonds, Giambi and others. They fight the subpoenas.

June 6, 2006 — Federal investigators raided the home of Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Jason Grimsley in Scottsdale, Ariz., as part of their steroids investigation.

July 5, 2006 — Anderson found in contempt of court and ordered back to prison after refusing to testify before the federal grand jury investigating Bonds for perjury.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide