Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Disgraced football official Chuck Blazer dies at 72

Published:Thursday | July 13, 2017 | 7:00 AM
Chuck Blazer's death was announced by his lawyers, Eric Corngold and Mary Mulligan.

NEW YORK (AP) — Chuck Blazer, the disgraced American football executive whose admissions of corruption set off a global scandal that ultimately toppled FIFA President Sepp Blatter, died Wednesday.

He was 72.

Blazer's death was announced by his lawyers, Eric Corngold and Mary Mulligan.

At a November 2013 court hearing during which Blazer entered guilty pleas to 10 federal charges, the disgraced executive said he had rectal cancer, diabetes and coronary artery disease.

A person familiar with his death said Blazer died in New Jersey.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the place of his death was not disclosed in the statement.

"I've known Chuck for a lot of years. He did a lot for the sport. Sorry about all the issues regarding FIFA, but he was a good man," U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena said. "He helped the sport in the United States."

With girth, charm and a pet parrot, Blazer was a bon vivant as he made deals from an office and apartment in Trump Tower.

The number two official in the governing body of football's North and Central American and Caribbean region from 1990-2011 and a member of FIFA's ruling executive committee from 1997-2013, Blazer was central to the rise of the sport in the United States.

He relished his status, posting a photo on his blog of him in a private jet with Nelson Mandela.

Soccer corruption had been rumoured for years before Blazer accused his boss, CONCACAF President Jack Warner, and fellow executive committee member Mohamed bin Hammam of offering US$40,000 bribes to voters in the 2011 FIFA presidential election.

Bin Hammam, a Qatari who headed the Asian Football Confederation, had been the lone challenger to Blatter, who was elected unopposed to a fourth term after Warner and bin Hammam were suspended.

Blatter was elected to a fifth term in 2015 before resigning.

But it turned out Blazer's conduct was as corrupt as the actions of the people he accused.

A CONCACAF investigation report released in 2013 said Blazer "misappropriated CONCACAF funds to finance his personal lifestyle," causing the organisation to "subsidise rent on his residence in the Trump Tower in New York; purchase apartments at the Mondrian, a luxury hotel and residence in Miami; sign purchase agreements and pay down payments on apartments at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas."

U.S. government agents stopped him on a Manhattan street, threatened him with arrest, and he became a government informant in 2011.

U.S. prosecutors have brought charges against more than 40 soccer officials, marketing executives, associates and entities, and prosecutors in Switzerland also have been investigating.

"Chuck hoped to help bring transparency, accountability and fair play to CONCACAF, FIFA and soccer as a whole," his lawyers said in a statement.

"Chuck also accepted responsibility for his own conduct by pleading guilty and owning up to his mistakes. Chuck felt profound sorrow and regret for his actions."

Blazer pleaded guilty in November 2013 to one count each of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and wilful failure to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, and to six counts of tax evasion.

He forfeited $1.96 million and agreed to forfeit a second amount, to be determined at the time of sentencing, but he was never jailed as the investigation continued.

He also agreed to pay a FBAR civil penalty for $487,875.

He was banned from soccer for life by FIFA on July 9, 2015.