"Look, we were business associates," Franzese said last week from the minimum-security federal prison in Boron, Calif., where he is finishing a 10-year sentence for racketeering. "I'm not going to lie and say we weren't. But to say I had anything to do with his sports business, that I controlled it or called the shots, is ridiculous. If I gave it [the $50,000] to him I don't see a problem in telling you. There's nothing illegal about it. But at this point I'm not going to confirm it.... Truthfully, it wasn't a whole lot of money to me, but that's beside the point."
The indictment further states that in 1981, Walters enlisted Franzese to intimidate the manager of the Jackson 5 into giving Walters the booking contract for the group's tour that year. Walters never did get the contract. Although Franzese has been accused of having had at least one enemy beaten, he says he never threatened anyone on behalf of Walters or Bloom. If someone invoked his name to accomplish the same thing. Franzese says, he can't help it.
"I resent when guys go around using my name and giving me problems. I resent it very, very much," says Franzese. "And if he [ Walters] did this I would be very upset with him, because it caused me and my family a lot of aggravation."
Did Franzese, who was named as an unindicted coconspirator, cooperate with the government to nail Walters? The Chicago Tribune, citing unnamed sources, reported last week that he did. Franzese denies it, saying only that he appeared before the grand jury last November, but exercised his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself. "I told them [the prosecutors] I couldn't be of any help. For the record, I am not cooperating with the government on this case."
The FBI investigation began in March 1987, shortly after a rival sports agent in Illinois, who had signed athletes previously under contract to Walters and Bloom, was beaten and slashed in her office by a masked assailant. Ironically, there have been no arrests in that case, and it was not mentioned in the indictment.
Also charged by the government were the Philadelphia Eagles' Cris Carter, formerly of Ohio State, and an agent, David Lueddeke, of Los Angeles. Carter, who is cooperating with investigators, was charged with mail fraud and obstruction of justice; Lueddeke, with perjury and obstruction of justice for testifying falsely before a grand jury and concealing the fact that he had paid Carter $5,000 in return for Carter's signing a contract with him. Forty-three athletes who have admitted accepting money from Walters and Bloom will not be prosecuted in exchange for their making restitution to their schools and performing up to 250 hours of community service.
Bloom and Walters did not comment on the indictment, but they have said previously they are innocent of all charges. A trial has tentatively been set for Feb. 27.