Dominic Frontiere, husband of the owner of the Los Angeles Rams, has agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges that he failed to report income--perhaps as much as several hundred thousand dollars--that he made by scalping Rams tickets for the 1980 Super Bowl game.
The 55-year-old Hollywood composer is scheduled to enter his guilty plea this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
If he goes through with the plea, Frontiere will face a minimum penalty of probation and a maximum penalty of eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine for filing a false income tax return and making false statements to investigators.
Prosecutors have conceded that Frontiere, who was scheduled to stand trial on the income tax charges next week, owes no more money to the IRS, because his additional unreported income was more than offset by an extraordinary one-time operating loss that was available to him and his wife.
His wife, Georgia Frontiere, the Rams owner, was not charged in the case, although the couple filed a joint income tax return.
Under terms of an agreement with prosecutors that Dominic Frontiere and his attorneys filed with the court on Monday, the Emmy award-winning songwriter agreed to plead guilty to two counts of a three-count indictment returned against him last June.
The counts to which he said he will plead guilty allege that:
- He and his wife reported income of $397,000 in 1980 on their tax return, when Dominic Frontiere knew they should have reported substantially more income from Super Bowl tickets he sold. The Rams, who lost in the championship game that year, had been furnished the tickets by the National Football League.
- He and his wife claimed a false deduction of $116,335 for Super Bowl tickets that they said they gave away, when Dominic Frontiere knew that the tickets to the game at the Rose Bowl had been sold.
- Dominic Frontiere lied to Internal Revenue Service investigators when he told them that he had personally received only about 200 Super Bowl tickets and had given most of them to friends, when the truth was that he had received thousands of tickets; he sold most of them at prices far above their face value through Raymond Cohen, a convicted thief, and netted hundreds of thousands of dollars for himself.
Cites Judge's Warning
One of Frontiere's attorneys, Richard Marmaro, said on Tuesday that "the plea to count one and count two does not mean he is pleading guilty to each and every allegation in count one and two." But Marmaro declined to be specific about what Frontiere plans to admit, citing a warning to attorneys from Judge William D. Keller, who will preside at Wednesday's hearing, to guard their comments to reporters.
In pretrial accounts filed with the court, however, Frontiere has claimed through his attorneys that the scope of the case, as outlined by prosecutors, is overblown.
He has said that he gave Cohen about 1,800 tickets two weeks before the game and told him to get as much money for them as he could, and that Cohen sold most of the tickets and gave him a paper bag containing about $100,000 in cash.
In this account, Frontiere said he did not report the income in part because Cohen extorted most of the money from him, invoking the name of a reputed organized-crime figure to frighten him.
Estate Tax Audit
Frontiere also said he was aware that the additional income would not have resulted in him and his wife owing more taxes because of their operating loss. The $700,000 loss resulted largely from an estate tax audit of the Rams after the 1979 drowning death of Georgia Frontiere's previous husband, Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom.
Dominic Frontiere was engaged to the new Rams owner, a former Las Vegas showgirl, at the time of the Super Bowl. He married her later in 1980.
Frontiere, who has never had any official position with the football team, has not publicly explained how he acquired so many tickets from the Rams. But he has claimed that no one connected with the team knew of his purpose in obtaining them.
In return for the guilty pleas, government prosecutors agreed to seek the dismissal of a third count in the indictment, which charged Frontiere with attempting to obstruct justice by urging Cohen to lie to IRS agents.
Probe May Continue
Asked whether the proposed guilty pleas would the end the Super Bowl ticket-scalping probe that began more than five years ago, a prosecutor in the case, U.S. Justice Department tax attorney Richard Leon, said, "I can't comment on that."
The investigation was born amid allegations that surfaced in 1981 as side issues during pretrial testimony in an antitrust suit filed by the Raiders against the National Football League. Officials of the Raiders, then in Oakland, claimed that the NFL wanted to keep their team out of Los Angeles in part to protect a lucrative scalping market for the Rams.
Scalping--selling tickets for more than face value--is legal in California, as long as it is not done at a game site. However, income from scalping must be reported.
The investigation grew after Cohen, arrested on counterfeiting charges, became a government informant.
Frontiere, who is free on $5,000 bail, did not return a reporter's call to his office on Tuesday.
He won his Emmy for best music direction on the 1970 NBC special "Swing Out, Sweet Land."