A federal judge in Newark yesterday issued a temporary restraining order against the International Boxing Federation that limits its spending and bars its officials from hiding funds or destroying records.
U.S. District Judge John W. Bissell ordered the sanctioning organization to seek court approval before paying more than $5,000 to any entity in any week.
The judge's order follows a criminal indictment and civil racketeering lawsuit against IBF President Robert Lee Sr. and three other top officials, who are charged with accepting $338,000 in bribes from promoters, managers and others to manipulate the rankings for fighters.
At yesterday's hearing, Bissell said he had reviewed some of the evidence, including transcripts of taped conversations. "I do conclude that the government . . . has demonstrated a reasonable chance of success on the merits," Bissell said, according to the Associated Press.
Bissell set a hearing for Dec. 22 to consider a request by the prosecutor that the judge remove Lee, 65, of Fanwood, N.J., and the three other indicted officials from the IBF and appoint a monitor to reform the group. The prosecutor has asked the judge to appoint Zachary W. Carter, a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District in Brooklyn, as the IBF monitor.
If the judge grants that request, it will be the first time that a monitor has been imposed on a sports organization, prosecutors have said. Under the racketeering laws, the court generally has appointed monitors to reform corrupt labor unions.
According to the Associated Press, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph G. Braunreuther yesterday told Bissell: "The government wants to do the right thing here. The government wants to preserve the IBF for the benefit of the fighters." Braunreuther said Lee is improperly trying to have the IBF pay his legal fees.
Gerald Krovatin, Lee's attorney, accused prosecutors of "overreaching" in seeking the restraints and monitor, arguing there was no evidence the IBF was being looted since Lee's Nov. 3 indictment, and asking what interest the government had in saving the IBF. "If the IBF disappeared tomorrow, boxing would survive," Krovatin said, according to the Associated Press.
Bissell said that the organization's assets are at risk and that it plays a "significant role" in interstate and foreign commerce, the Associated Press reported.
After the judge issued his order, the prosecutor withdrew an earlier request to freeze the IBF assets in the criminal case.
In addition to Lee, the three other officials in both the civil and criminal cases are Lee's son, Robert Jr., 38, of Scotch Plains, N.J.; former Virginia boxing commissioner Donald William Brennan, 86, of Warsaw, Va.; and Francisco Fernandez of Colombia, an international commissioner of the IBF. They are charged with racketeering and other crimes, involving bribery payments in 32 instances between 1985 and 1998. Officials said seven promoters and managers and 23 boxers were involved, but none was named in the indictment.
The Lees and Brennan have pleaded not guilty.