Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Danbury Trashers Accused of Salary-Cap Fraud

So many eager sinners, only 7 deadly sins Hell’s so God damn crowded that there’s no one getting in
Todd Stirling

Folllowing the arrest on Friday of team owner James Galante on federal charges, the Danbury Trashers have found themselves in still more deep doo-doo.

Through a federal indictment, the Trashers have been accused of hiding a team payroll of almost $750,000-- playing in a league (the UHL) that has a salary cap of $275,000-- through phony jobs and under-the-table payments.

From and the Associated Press:

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) June 10, 2006 -- The Danbury Trashers marketed themselves as a team in a rough-and-tumble minor league that would play dirty to win. Prosecutors say they also broke federal law.

The team, owner James Galante and former coach J. Todd Stirling were accused Friday of defrauding the United Hockey League, violating its salary cap by giving some players and their wives no-show jobs with Galante's trash-hauling companies. They are also accused of hiding improper payments as "housing allowances."

"In fact, in the 2004-2005 season, this scheme allowed James Galante to pay three key players on the Danbury Trashers a salary of approximately $100,000 each, when the UHL salary cap was only approximately $275,000 for the entire team for the regular season," a federal indictment stated.

With the improper payments included, the team's payroll actually approached $750,000 that year, prosecutors said.

The charges are part of an investigation into organized crime and Galante's trash hauling businesses. Galante, Stirling and 27 other people face federal charges.

"I don't think salary cap circumvention is going to be a federal crime in most cases," U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Connor said, noting that the salary allegations spun off from the larger mob case. "I would like to think most professional sports team owners aren't facing indictment for racketeering," O'Connor said. "This is somewhat of an unusual circumstance."

Stirling, son of former New York Islanders coach Steve Stirling
(Steve Stirling being recently named the head coach of the AHL's Springfield Falcons), faces six counts of wire fraud related to the faxing of weekly salary-cap reports to league offices in Missouri. The players involved were not charged, and were identified in the indictment only as "Hockey Player A" through "Hockey Player E."

The players or their wives were put on the payrolls as salespeople for various companies owned by Galante, but performed no services for those companies, according to the indictment. They were also given checks as housing allowances although the team had already paid for their housing, according to the indictment.

The five players subpoenaed in the investigation included Wayne Gretzky's brother Brent, a former Trasher player, according to someone with direct knowledge of the case who spoke to The Associated Press in March on condition of anonymity because grand jury matters are secret by law.

Former Trashers Jay Murphy, Jim Duhart and Scott Sterling were also subpoenaed, the source said. The fifth player, Jeff Daw, said Friday he was also part of the investigation, but would not comment on the specifics. He acknowledged that it is hard for many UHL players to make ends meet on a minor-league salary.

"It's tough," he said. "It's not as tough for guys who are single, but for guys who are married, you have a little bit more responsibility."

The United Hockey League, which traces its roots to 1991, has 14 teams in seven states. The Trashers joined the league in 2004 and quickly made headlines when Galante was fined an undisclosed amount for hitting a referee after a particularly violent game in December of that year.

In a Trashers promotional video seized by the FBI and reviewed by The Associated Press, the team played up its image as the most violent team in professional hockey. A player is shown learning hand-to-hand combat and, at one point, the camera pans over blood stains on the ice.

Galante played up that persona in the video. He shouts menacing demands at one point, similar to the threats he barks in FBI wiretaps played in court Friday.

Prosecutors allege that by underreporting the players' salaries, the team not only avoided UHL fines for violating the salary cap, but also were able to seek "a higher percentage of skilled players" in the 2004-05 season. The Trashers finished second in their division that year. This season, they reached the Colonial Cup Finals of the 14-team league.

Daw said he is worried about what the federal case will mean for the future of hockey in Danbury, where he has played for two seasons. "I think a lot of guys are hoping the team will be back," he said. "For the minors, it's been a great place to play."

While I've yet to see the "hand-to-hand combat" promotional video mentioned in the above article, you can click here to see the Danbury Trashers' "Hell On Ice" promotional video (for Windows Media Player).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should there be a Salary Cap in Football?
Personally I think there should be! It’s just getting to be stupid money in football at the top of the premiership!
It’s always the same teams at the top proving that football success is based purely on money which ruins the idea of it being a sport! They’ve done it in rugby, basketball, hockey and American football and it makes the sports more competitive and better to watch!
I do a little Spread Betting from time to time and most matches don’t hold much surprise who is going to win, its boring! I want to see a team at the bottom pulling off an amazing season beating last seasons winners in a close fought battle!
Make things fair! It shouldn’t be about money!
All there is all that money in the premiership and barely any of it stays in the UK so it’s not even helping the economy!
From my Spread Betting, if I ever win big (which is never, I’m unlucky) it’s still nothing compared to the average premiership players weekly wage!
This Rant was brought to you by Spread Betting Spike. 

4/15/08, 10:19 AM


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