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Former L.A. Kings majority owner Bruce McNall pleaded guilty to four criminal counts stemming from a federal bank fraud investigation. Charges included "creating phony financial statements for lenders as early as 1984, supplying fake coin inventories to secure loans, diverting millions from a Merrill Lynch coin fund and King ticket proceeds and even listing dead horses as collateral. Allegations also include improperly pledging a horse he owned with [Wayne] Gretzky to a bank without telling the Kings superstar." Although McNall faces a maximum of 45 years, sources say his sentence will most likely be three to nine years. As expected, McNall officially gave up his title as Kings president, but will serve as a consultant to the team. His $650,000 salary will be trimmed to $487,500. McNall "technically remains a minority owner in the club, although his 28% stake is now under the control of the trustee in his U.S. Bankruptcy Court case and is expected to be eventually sold" (Bates & Dillman, L.A. TIMES, 12/15). In L.A., Helene Elliott writes, "We probably should have seen this coming. We didn't want to look. And the NHL, before the Gary Bettman regime, was too busy to look because it was counting the money King merchandising brought in" (L.A. TIMES, 12/15).
Darryl Strawberry and his agent, Eric Goldschmidt, pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and federal tax evasion yesterday. Strawberry arrived at the courthouse "via limousine with a bodyguard and left in the same manner." His case is schedule to be heard May 5 (Jennifer Frey, N.Y. TIMES, 12/15). NBC's Pete Williams reported that NBC has learned that "nine other current and former major league players are also under investigation." Williams also cited sources close to the investigation who say that "federal agents gathered evidence at a baseball show about two years ago, by secretly tape recording players who asked to be payed in cash with no records to the IRS" ("Nightly News," NBC, 12/14). Strawberry told reporters that the "real criminal here" is Meade Chasky, Strawberry's former card show agent who was granted immunity in exchange for testimony (Bill Madden, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/15).