Don King, the boxing promoter whose clients over the last decade have included Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Sugar Ray Leonard, was charged in New York yesterday, along with an associate, with 23 counts of federal tax evasion in connection with the alleged skimming of more than $1 million from Don King Productions, Inc.
U.S. Attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani said at a news conference that King, 53, and Constance Harper, 51, vice president of King's promotion company, each was charged by a grand jury with four counts of tax evasion and one of conspiracy, along with a number of lesser counts of filing fraudulent tax returns. The charges cover the calendar years 1978 through 1980.
King, considered one of boxing's most powerful promoters, is known for his flamboyant appearance -- including fingers laden with diamond rings and gold chains dangling from his neck -- and an unmistakable, upswept hair style, giving him the appearance of a man with a finger stuck in an electric socket.
King has promotional ties to more than 100 fighters, including current heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. He also was copromoter of rock star Michael Jackson's "Victory Tour" this year.
The indictments charge that from 1978 until the spring of 1981, King and Harper conspired "to extract more than $1 million in corporate receipts, most of it paid in cash and personally taken by King."
Giuliani said the indictments followed a lengthy investigation by his office with the cooperation of the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI.
The indictments charge that after King and Harper skimmed the funds, they intentionally failed to report the money on their personal income tax returns or on corporate returns.
The government charged that King "authorized the transfer of large sums" into Harper's bank account, often channeling the funds through a joint account held by the two.
Roanne L. Mann, the assistant U.S. attorney in charge of the prosecution, said one of the sources of unreported income identified in the indictment is the Ceasars Palace casino in Las Vegas, where King's company began promoting boxing events in late 1977.
The indictments were said to detail numerous occasions in which King visited Caesars Palace, signed markers or receipts and drew large cash advances against amounts that were owed to Don King Productions Inc.
Money also was said to have been diverted from payments to King's company by ABC Sports and by J&J Sports, a company that bought rights to the fight between Ali and Holmes in 1980. No wrongdoing was alleged against Caesars Palace, ABC or J&J Sports.
King was charged with failing to report a total of $422,000 in personal income and with failing to pay $211,000 in taxes between 1978 and 1980. Harper allegedly failed to report $195,000 in income and failed to pay $94,000 in taxes in those years.
In a statement, Don King Productions said King and Harper "believe that they are innocent of all charges and that they will be fully exonerated when they are provided with an opportunity to defend themselves. The company and its officers consistently filed what they believed to be complete and accurate tax returns."
Giuliani said King and Harper are scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 21 in Manhattan. He said King faces up to 46 years in prison and a fine of $65,000, and Harper faces up to 62 years in prison and $115,000 in fines.