President Trump commuted sentence of Las Vegas gambler and golf course owner Billy Walters
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President Trump commuted sentence of Las Vegas gambler and golf course owner Billy Walters

Billy Walters was a friend and golf buddy to Phil Mickelson.


Among the pardons and commutations issued by President Donald Trump in his final full day in office, the outgoing president commuted the sentence of Billy Walters.

Walters was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison in July 2017 for insider trading of multiple stocks. Phil Mickelson, a long-time golf partner of Walters, reportedly owed Walters some $2 million in gambling debts in 2012. Walters shared an insider tip he had on Dean Foods so Mickelson could quickly repay the debt. Mickelson made $930,000 on the trade, and that profit was paid directly to Walters.

In total, Walters made approximately $43 million in profit from trading on insider information from 2008-15. He has repaid that money as part of his sentence.

Mickelson was identified in a Securities and Exchange Commission non-criminal complaint regarding the Dean Foods trade, compelling Mickelson to pay back the ill-gotten gains as a fine. Mickelson complied. Mickelson was never charged with a crime, but he did twice tell FBI investigators he had no knowledge of insider information in making the trades. Mickelson never made those claims in court, however.

President Trump commuted the remainder of Walters' sentence, claiming Mickelson supported the move. However, ESPN reports that was not true, based on a response from Mickelson and his attorney Glenn Cohen.

In a 2018 ESPN interview, Walters was upset with Mickelson for not speaking up further in defense of Walters.

"Here is a guy that all he had to do was come forward and tell the truth," Walters said in the October interview. "That was all he had to do. The guy wouldn't do that because he was concerned about his image. He was concerned about his endorsements.

Others in the golf community who supported the commutation were Butch Harmon, David Feherty and Peter Jacobsen.

Walters owned a total of four golf courses in the Las Vegas area through his Walters Golf company. Three of them have been sold in the last decade. His lone remaining golf course holding is Bali Hai Golf Club, located on the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip.

 

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Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

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