Judge cites recent Supreme Court decision in overturning soccer-related convictions

 September 12, 2023

Last week saw a New York federal judge point to a recent Supreme Court decision when she threw out the criminal convictions linked with professional soccer.  

According to the Associated Press, U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen moved on last Friday to vacate guilty verdicts against former CEO of Fox International Channels Hernán Lopez and the Argentine sports marketing company Full Play.

Lopez and Full Play found guilty on corruption charges

Lopez and Full Play were convicted in March on one count each of wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy relating to the Copa Libertadores soccer club tournament.

Further, Full Play was also found guilty on two additional counts of wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering in connection with the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup qualifiers.

However, Chen cited the Supreme Court's decision in May to reverse the conviction of Joseph Percoco, a one-time aide to former New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Judge says statute "does not criminalize the conduct alleged in this case"

"The Supreme Court’s latest wire fraud decisions — especially Percoco — and the absence of precedent applying honest services wire fraud to foreign commercial bribery, requires this court to find that (the statute) does not criminalize the conduct alleged in this case and that therefore the evidence at trial was insufficient to sustain defendants’ convictions under that statute," Chen was quoted as writing.

"Defendants’ convictions for money laundering, predicated on their honest services wire fraud convictions, also cannot be sustained," she continued.

"The court therefore grants defendants’ motions to acquit on all counts of conviction," the federal judge went on to add.

For his part, Full Play lawyer Carlos F. Ortiz told the Associated Press, "Our client is grateful for the court’s well-reasoned decision."

Long history of alleged corruption in professional soccer

The FIFA has long been plagued by corruption concerns, with the Washington Post reporting last year that the Department of Justice (DOJ) accused Russian and Qatari figures of having bribed FIFA officials in order to secure World Cup hosting rights.

What's more, the DOJ announced in 2015 that it was bringing indictments against 14 defendants for soccer-related racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies.

"The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States," then-Attorney General Lynch was quoted as saying in a press release.

"It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks," she added.

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