The Justice Department's seven-month investigation of the Olympic site-selection scandal resulted in its first criminal conviction yesterday, when a Salt Lake City businessman pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor tax charge for covering up a phony employment arrangement with an International Olympic Committee member's son.
David E. Simmons admitted falsifying employment tax records so an unidentified IOC member's son could obtain permanent resident status in the United States, according to a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City. The plea agreement and its accompanying findings of fact said the scheme, which also involved an unnamed official of the local bid committee that won the 2002 Winter Games for Salt Lake City, was designed to influence the IOC member's vote in the site-selection balloting.
In a statement released through his attorney yesterday, Simmons said Korean IOC member Un Yong Kim and his son, John Kim, were the IOC member and son involved. Simmons's statement also identified Tom Welch, the former president of the Salt Lake bid committee, as the official who organized and helped carry out the phony job arrangement. In addition, Simmons said he has cooperated with investigators and will continue doing so.
"This was the first charge in an ongoing investigation," Justice Department spokesman Myron Marlin said. "I couldn't speculate on what the next steps would be."
An attorney for the Kim family, Howard Graff, said the family was unaware of the arrangements for reimbursing Simmons. "It is indeed unfortunate that by implication, Dr. Kim has once again been dragged into a story concerning the alleged misdeeds of others," Graff said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
The 13-page plea agreement and the findings of fact detail a more complex and calculated web of deceit than previously had been known.
Simmons admitted using phony contracts and invoices to conceal payments from the Salt Lake City bid committee to the IOC member's son "for the purpose of influencing his father's vote in favor of awarding the Olympic Winter Games to Salt Lake City," according to the government's filing.
Simmons, formerly the chairman and CEO of Keystone Communications Inc., faces a maximum of one year in prison and a $10,000 fine for submitting a 1992 tax return that falsely indicated that the IOC member's son was an employee of Keystone, according to the agreement.
The IOC member, his son and the Salt Lake bid committee official could face fraud or bribery charges, according to a source. The investigation is being conducted by Justice Department prosecutors, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Customs Service.
Un Yong Kim received a warning from the IOC in March for activities stemming from his son's involvement with Simmons's company, but he was not among the 10 members who resigned or were expelled for ethical violations related to the scandal. The IOC determined the evidence "not entirely conclusive" that Kim knew of the arrangements made by Welch in his son's favor, according to the committee's March 11 report.
(Kim was also cited twice in the IOC report for a "very serious appearance of conflict of interest" regarding alleged attempts to use his influence to arrange piano concerts for his daughter and to aid a relative of his daughter's record producer.)
Yesterday's filing, however, states that Simmons discussed the phony job arrangement -- including the fact that the Salt Lake bid committee official agreed to pay the salary indirectly -- with both the IOC member and his son.
Simmons's statement reads in part: "In our efforts to assist [John] Kim, and to receive reimbursement for his salary costs, we complied with the requests of Kim, Kim's attorneys and Welch that resulted in incorrect and misleading statements and agreements.
"I sincerely regret and accept responsibility for my participation in acts taken at the request of Welch and Kim. . . . I am angered and troubled by the effect these actions have had on our community's reputation. . . . I have cooperated fully with the investigators and look forward to continue cooperating with the government in order to prosecute those responsible."
According to yesterday's filing, the arrangement began in the summer of 1990, when the Salt Lake bid official called Simmons and asked him to hire the IOC member's son, who was at that time a foreign national. The son needed full-time, salaried employment to become a permanent resident of the United States. Simmons agreed to hire the son as "Marketing Manager-Asia" at a salary of $50,000 per year.
The filing states that the Salt Lake bid committee paid $76,674.98 to Keystone, through another company, as a reimbursement for the IOC member's son's salary for a period between 1991 and 1993. On one occasion, after Simmons sent the Salt Lake bid committee an invoice that referred to the IOC relative, the Salt Lake official "asked Simmons to send invoices . . . that omitted any reference to the IOC relative," according to the agreement.
In March 1992, Simmons terminated the IOC relative's salary for non-performance of duties, the plea said. The salary was reinstated a month later -- and increased to $70,383 -- after a sham consulting contract was arranged between Simmons's company and the IOC relative's company, according to the filing.