Originally created 12/23/99

Evidence of bribes shown at IBF hearing



NEWARK, N.J. -- A federal prosecutor presented a videotape on Wednesday that he said shows the head of the IBF taking bribes and manipulating the organization's rankings.

The government wants a judge to appoint a monitor to rehabilitate one of boxing's major governing bodies. Robert Lee Sr., the IBF founder and president, is on paid leave.

U.S. District Judge John Bissell has yet to decide if a monitor is warranted. He asked each sides to submit three names of potential monitors by Dec. 30.

If installed, the IBF would become the first sports group with a monitor, a racketeering remedy that has been imposed only a dozen times, mainly against mob-riddled labor unions.

The judge retained the spending limits he imposed last month on the IBF after determining the government had a strong case.

The request for a monitor was made in November in a government lawsuit that mirrored an earlier indictment accusing Lee and others of taking $338,000 in bribes to change the rankings of the organization, headquartered in East Orange. Rankings play a big role in determining fights and purses for boxers.

Lee, 65, was indicted last week on additional charges of failing to report the bribes as income on his tax returns. He has pleaded innocent to all charges. He was in court Wednesday but did not comment.

The IBF board granted him a leave of absence Dec. 7 at his full $165,000 salary, which was recently reduced to $25,000. Lee said he needed to devote his energy to his defense and his health, He had heart surgery Dec. 13.

The IBF board has also agreed to pay $250,000 of Lee's legal fees, and $50,000 for each of this three co-defendants, which they must repay if found guilty.

"Let's look out for the boxers," Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Braunreuther said. "Let's restore the integrity of the IBF."

Secretly recorded tapes show Lee taking a bribe and talking about payoffs, Braunreuther said. They also show he made the sham appointment of his nephew, Daryl Peoples, to the ranking committee to replace chairman Doug Beavers.

A 1996 federal law barred Beavers, the Virginia boxing commissioner, and other state commissioners from serving on such panels.

Beavers has not been charged. He did not immediately return messages left Wednesday at his home office of the Virginia Boxing and Wrestling Association.

Braunreuther also said the evidence shows Lee's replacement, longtime IBF vice president Hiawatha Knight of Detroit, did nothing during the years she was on the ratings committee.

Knight, who attended the hearing, said she has not been on the panel for five years, but declined to comment further. A retired gym teacher and high school athletic coach, she was a member of the Michigan State Athletic Boxing Commission from 1978 to 1988, the last eight years as chairwoman.

Peoples was at the hearing but would not discuss the prosecutor's assertions.

In announcing the November indictment, prosecutors had noted they had audio and videotape evidence, but until Tuesday had not provided any details on its contents.

IBF lawyer Linda Torres said the monitor was unneeded because prosecutors have no evidence of wrongdoing by Knight, Peoples and the IBF's three other employees.

"The present state of the IBF is beyond reproach," Torres said.

Lee's lawyer, Gerald Krovatin, asserted that Lee is not running the IBF and that prosecutors have not met the standards needed for a monitor, including showing the likelihood of future wrongdoing.

Prosecutors have not said how much Lee took in bribes, only that they were paid by "boxing promoters and managers and others, in order to alter ratings of particular boxers and to provide others favorable treatment."

The indictment said seven promoters and managers were involved, as well as 23 boxers. They have not been charged, and the indictment refers to them only by number. The investigation is continuing, and prosecutors want Lee banned from boxing for life.