Golf superstar Phil Mickelson is facing a public relations nightmare after allegedly sending approximately $2.75 million to a jail-bound former handicapper who laundered money in an illegal sports gambling operation.
According to ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” the whopping sum from Mickelson — who ranks second on the PGA Tour’s all-time money list with more than $77 million in career earnings, and rakes in more than $40 million annually in endorsements, according to Forbes — was transferred to 56-year-old Gregory Silveira, who pleaded guilty last week to laundering nearly $3 million between February 2010 and February 2013 as a conduit for an “unnamed client” in an offshore gambling network. Sources told ESPN that client is Mickelson.
However, the report states Mickelson, 45, is not facing criminal charges and is not being investigated because the law was designed to prosecute gambling rings rather than individual bettors.
Mickelson’s publicist, T.R. Reinman, declined comment when reached by The Post.
The popular lefty has long been known for his enjoyment of sports betting and his habitual wagering on golf courses, particularly during practice rounds and on single shots.
ESPN cited sources stating Mickelson still gambles on games legally in Las Vegas.
In 2001, the five-time major winner was reprimanded by tour officials for gambling in the players lounge at the NEC Invitational after Mickelson won $500 from Mike Weir after betting him $20, at 25-1 odds, that Jim Furyk would sink a shot from the bunker.
According to court documents, Silveira worked as part of a gambling operation that accepted and placed bets on sporting events. In March 2010, the handicapper received an approximate $2.75 million wire transfer, which he knew was part of “illegal sports betting.” The documents describe the money as “proceeds,” leaving it unclear whether the funds were from gambling wins or losses.
According to the court documents, the money was transferred into Silveira’s account at Wells Fargo Bank, and then three days later, he made separate transfers of $2.475 million and $275,000 into a different account of his at Wells Fargo.
The following day, Silveira transferred $2.475 million to an account of his at JP Morgan Chase Bank, the final of the three transactions which brought on the money laundering charges.
The Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation unit headed the examination of the events, though it is unclear what prompted the investigation.
“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.
In the final plea agreement — signed May 1 — with the U.S. Department of Justice, Silveira pleaded guilty to three counts of money laundering. Though the “gambling client” remained anonymous, the initial plea deal signed last month by Silveira and his attorney contains a reference to the “money laundering of funds from P.M.”
Mickelson’s precise connection to Silveira remains unclear. Silveira is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 5 before U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips and could face up to 60 years in prison, though he likely will receive a far shorter sentence.
Mickelson was linked to another illegal business dealing last year, when he was named in an ongoing federal insider trading investigation involving billionaire Carl Icahn.
However, the 23-year pro was cleared by the FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission, which found no evidence Mickelson committed any wrongdoing. It is uncertain if federal authorities are still actively pursuing investigations into the trades of another stock linked to Mickelson.