wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles has fired Miracle Mile branch manager Gene Kawakami, the second bank official to be terminated since the bank alleged it had uncovered a $21.3 million embezzlement scheme.
Kawakami, 32, was fired "essentially as a result of our continuing investigation into the embezzlement" of funds from the accounts of Muhammad Ali Professional Sports and Muhammad Ali Amateur Sports, bank vice president George Caufield said from the Wells Fargo's San Francisco headquarters. Caufield would not elaborate.
L. Ben Lewis, 37, a bank operations manager at the Beverly Hills branch and a principal in the MAPS and MAAS boxing-track promotion businesses, was fired when the money was discovered missing Jan. 23.
Kawakami, who helped incorporate MAAS in 1977, has dropped from sight and was not available for comment.
The bank has charged in a Superior Court suit that the embezzlement involved "internal manipulation by an employe," and named as defendants Lewis, MAPS chairman and boxing promoter Harold J. Smith, Maps President Sammie Marshall and others. Former world heavyweight boxing champion Ali no longer has any connection with two sports promotion companies. c
No arrests have been made; the FBI is investigating the alleged fraud and financial records have been subpoenaed.
Smith, who has been in hiding since the money was discovered missing, has asserted his innocence in letters and tape recordings delivered in the news media in which he charges the embezzlement was the work of other Wells Fargo employes. Through his attorney, Smith has named Kawakami specifically, claiming Kawakami extended a $12 million line of credit to the boxing promoter and gave him about $500,000 from 1979 to 1980.