Noted gambler Billy Walters cleared to complete prison sentence at home

Billy Walters, one of the most successful sports gamblers ever, has been approved to complete the remainder of his five-year federal prison sentence for insider stock trading at his Southern California home.

Under Federal Bureau of Prison guidelines in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Walters, 73, is eligible for a transfer to home confinement due to his advanced age, as well as his having served more than 50% of his sentence and not having committed a violent crime. Walters has been confined since 2017 to the Federal Prison Camp in Pensacola, a minimum-security facility housed on a naval station in the Florida panhandle.

Walters is expected to leave the federal facility for his home in Carlsbad, California, on Friday or Saturday, according to a source close to Walters. His sentence will continue through January 2022. Because of his age, Walters normally would have been eligible to apply for home confinement in January.

Walters and other inmates have been quarantined inside the Florida facility in recent weeks, but the source said he is unaware of a major outbreak or Walters having the coronavirus.

In his prime, Walters had the financial muscle and acumen to move betting lines worldwide. He was convicted in 2017 of 10 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud after federal prosecutors in New York said he illegally made $40 million while trading Dean Foods stock from 2008 to 2015. Walters was accused of using nonpublic information from his friend and former Dean Foods chairman Thomas Davis, who later cooperated with the government.

The case drew additional notoriety because it involved veteran golfer Phil Mickelson. Prosecutors said Mickelson made nearly $1 million after Walters told him in 2012 to buy Dean Foods stock. Mickelson gave the profits to Walters to cover gambling debts he owed him, prosecutors said. Although Mickelson never faced charges in the case, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued him over the stock trades, and Mickelson agreed to repay the money.

Walters later said Mickelson could have helped his defense if he had agreed to testify at trial.

"Here is a guy [Mickelson] that all he had to do was come forward and tell the truth,'' Walters told ESPN in 2018. "That was all he had to do. The guy wouldn't do that because he was concerned about his image. He was concerned about his endorsements.''

The minimum-security prison camp in which Walters spent time is deemed one of the easiest places to serve a federal sentence. Most inmates are white-collar criminals in for less than 10 years. Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy spent 11 months inside the Pensacola facility a decade ago after pleading guilty to participating in a gambling conspiracy.