Boxing promoter Ross Fields, also known as Harold J. Smith, was indicted today along with two former officials of the Wells Fargo Bank in connection with what prosecutors called the largest bank embezzlement in history.
The 32-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury here alleged that Fields used $5 million of the more than $21 million embezzled to pay heavyweight fighters Earnie Shavers, Scott LeDoux, Gerry Cooney and Randy Cobb, light heavyweight champion Matthew Saad Muhammad, welterweight champion Thomas Hearns and former welterweight champion Jose (Pipino) Cuevas, among others.
The indictment said Fields also used embezzled funds to buy a private jet and a yacht and to offer heavyweight champion Larry Holmes $900,000 to sign a contract with his Muhammad Ali Professional Sports Inc. promotion company.
Neither former heavyweight champion Ali, who lent his name to the company, nor any of the fighters given or offered money are alleged to have know of the illegal source of the Fields' funds, U.S. attorney Andrea Sheridan Ordin said.
Attorneys for the two former Wells Fargo officials indicted today could not be reached for comment. Fields, who is in Los Angeles County jail because of a North Carolina bad check charge, has said in previous public statements he was innocent in the Wells Fargo scheme.
Fields, 37, attended American University after growing up in Alabama. He became an entertinment and boxing promote and operated a nightclub named after Sammy Davis Jr. at 13th and E Steets NW., in Washington, but left town and changed his name to Smith after allegedly writing several bad checks.
Fields' double life was not discovered until April, when FBI agents arrested him for applying for a passport using his false name.
Today's indictment also named Lloyd Benjamin Lewis, former assistant operations officer at Wells Fargo's Beverly Drive office, and Sammie Marshall, a former loan officer at the bank's Miracle Mile office who later on became president of Muhammad Ali Professional Sports Inc.
According to the indictment, Fields arranged in late summer of 1978 with Marshall and Lewis to "divert and secrete" Wells Fargo checks he had cashed despite insufficient funds.
The three men then allegedly organized a scheme whereby Lewis could use the bank's internal branch settlement accounting system to generate funds for Fields' companies. Ficticious entries made it seem that funds being credited to Fields were transfers from another branch of the bank. The fictitious entries allegedly were alternated, or "rolled over," so that each one offset a previous one and prevented the bank's computers from signaling that the settlement account had not been cleared.