SUPER BOWL SCALPING
A federal grand jury in Los Angeles last Thursday handed down a three-count, seven-page indictment against Dominic Frontiere, husband of Los Angeles Rams owner Georgia Rosenbloom Frontiere. The indictment alleges that Frontiere, who told SI's Armen Keteyian that he was "shocked" and "confused" by the grand jury's action, cheated on his 1980 federal income tax by failing to report income—"hundreds of thousands of dollars," say prosecutors—from the sale of thousands of tickets to that year's Super Bowl and by falsely claiming $116,335 worth of complimentary tickets as a publicity expense. The indictment further charges that the Emmy-award-winning composer lied to the Internal Revenue Service when questioned about his tax return and that he attempted to obstruct the IRS investigation. Even though Georgia and Dominic Frontiere filed a joint income tax return for 1980 (they were married in July of that year), Georgia was not named in the indictment.
The indictment marked federal authorities' first assault on alleged criminal activity associated with what is said to be the widespread and lucrative selling of Super Bowl tickets by NFL league and team officials. Reports of extensive scalping first surfaced five years ago as a sidelight of the Oakland Raiders' antitrust suit against the NFL (SI, Jan. 26, 1981), and last week a major L.A. ticket broker told SI that he has done ticket-scalping business for years with officials of the Rams, Saints and Dolphins—host clubs of 16 of the last 20 Super Bowls. The broker claimed that high-level officials of the Bucs, 49ers, Patriots, Cowboys, Eagles, Steelers, Chargers and the league have also scalped large blocks of Super Bowl tickets through him.
In a deposition given in 1980 in connection with the antitrust case, Raider owner Al Davis asserted that he had been approached about scalping his allotment of 1977 Super Bowl tickets by the late Carroll Rosenbloom, at the time Georgia's husband and owner of the Rams. Davis said he had declined to participate in the scheme, but that after the game—the Raiders defeated the Vikings 32-14 in the Rose Bowl—Rosenbloom had "told me they had made a killing" on the Rams' host-club allotment of 30,000 tickets. Davis said he "was told everyone in the league is doing it...coaches are doing it...everyone is."
In the fall of '83 the U.S. Justice Department impaneled the L.A. grand jury to look into Super Bowl ticket scalping. The task was difficult, in part because the Super Bowl is held in a different city each year and because laws governing ticket scalping vary from state to state. Off-site scalping is legal in California, for example—as long as profits are reported on tax returns.
A key witness called before the grand jury was former Rams vice-president Harold Guiver, who testified in the antitrust case that Rosenbloom had promised in early 1979 to sell him 5,000 tickets for the following year's Super Bowl at face value, $30 apiece. Guiver said that several months after Rosenbloom drowned in April of 1979, he reminded Rosen-bloom's widow (who by this time was running the Rams) of the promise, but, Guiver said, she would sell him only 1,000 tickets—and initially tried to charge him $100 apiece for them. She denies involvement in ticket scalping.
Other grand jury witnesses included Jack Catain and Raymond Cohen, both of whom reputedly have had connections to organized crime. They are now federally protected witnesses. Cohen is identified in the indictment as the seller of Dominic Frontiere's 1980 Super Bowl tickets. The obstruction of justice charge against Frontiere alleges that he tried to convince Cohen to lie to the IRS. Last week a grand jury source told SI that David Adelman, a co-owner of Murray's Tickets in L.A., billed as the world's largest ticket brokerage, testified that Catain and Cohen approached him before the 1980 Super Bowl with a huge bundle of tickets, some of which Adelman subsequently bought from them.
In 1984 a restaurateur named H. Daniel Whitman was convicted in an alleged murder-for-hire plot in which Cohen was the intended victim. The conviction was overturned, and a new trial is pending. In the first trial a tape was played of a conversation between Whitman and an alleged conspirator. In the conversation Whitman said that Cohen was "blackmailing" Dominic Frontiere and "that's what started the whole thing." No charges were brought against Frontiere in the alleged murder plot against Cohen.
Frontiere's indictment may not be the end of the government's investigation into Super Bowl ticket scalping. U.S. Attorney Robert C. Bonner, who headed the investigation for the Justice Department, told SI's Jack Tobin last week that the indictment did not make the grand jury's probe "a dead letter. I would expect that there would be some further evaluation made at a later time, possibly after the case against Mr. Frontiere is taken care of."
THE TRASH MAN COMETH