One apartment in Trump Tower for himself.
A second next door for his cats.
More luxury apartments in Florida and the Bahamas.
Credit card charges topping $26 million.
Another $20 million in his pocket.
A blog titled “Travels with Chuck Blazer and His Friends…” featuring a picture of him on a private plane with a smiling Nelson Mandela.
A private meeting with Vladimir Putin in which the Russian president tells him he looks just like Karl Marx.
Nights at one for the best tables in the fabled Manhattan nightspot Elaine’s.
Feasts at such fine restaurants as Campagnola and Dutch.
Chuck Blazer billed all of it—including a Hummer for himself and health care for his girlfriend—to an international soccer association, years of graft justified by a sense of entitlement.
He was, after all, the general secretary of FIFA’s Confederation of North, Central American, and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), having hustled his way up from kiddie coach to head of the Westchester County soccer association to the New York state soccer association to a national position and his eventual prominence.
The one-time suburban soccer dad who had stood so lean with his 6-year-old son’s team back in 1979 had since been transformed by excess into a 450-pound personification of ever-growing greed.
When he became too corpulent to move around without effort, he simply got a motorized scooter.
And the hobnobbing and gorging and squandering might have just kept on and on, for the soccer association was the infamously corrupt FIFA.
The greed turned feverish as Qatar campaigned to become the site for the 2022 World Cup.
With that victory, Mohammed Bin Hammam of Qatar apparently decided that the magic of money might also make him the new president of FIFA.
And here, CONCACAF’s then-president, Jack Warner, went from greedy to plain stupid.
Warner was also president of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), which in the past has voted as a bloc in FIFA presidential elections.
Warner called a meeting of the CFU at a Trinidad hotel. Bin Hammam addressed the group. Warner afterward directed the members to a conference room to pick up a “gift” for having attended.
Frederick Lunn, vice president of the Bahamas Football Association, later recounted in an affidavit that he went to the conference room as instructed.
“When I arrived, the door was locked, so I knocked,” Lunn recounted. “A male answered the door and asked that I wait a few minutes. Soon thereafter, the same individual opened the door and invited me in.”
Lunn entered and a woman asked him to sign a form.
“She then handed me a manila envelope with ‘Bahamas’ written on it,” Lunn remembered. “I opened the envelope, which was stapled, and stacks of US $100 fell out of the envelope and onto the table. I was stunned to see the cash. I asked them what it was and they told me it was US $40,000. They said it was a gift from the CFU and I could count if I wanted.”
Lunn took a picture of the money before returning it.
“Witnessing this was particularly troubling because at this same time CNN was running stories concerning allegations of bribes being paid in connection with awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar,” Lunn recounted.
Lunn reported the attempted “gift” to Anton Sealey, the head of the Bahamas chapter. Sealey reported it to Blazer.
In the past, Warner had suffered few repercussions after being accused of hustles such as selling 20,000 more tickets to a match than there were seats.
But Warner had now engaged in something unforgivable: being party to an apparent attempt to bribe an honest person who then reported it.
Word of it was sure to reach FIFA. And the longtime sitting president, Sepp Blatter, no doubt would take particular exception, as this gift-giving was an apparent attempt to unseat him.
All of which left Blazer in jeopardy because he and Warner had long been considered to be so close that people would meld their names together and speak of them as one person, ChuckJack.
Chuck moved to separate himself from Jack. Blazer reported Warner to FIFA, filing an affidavit that is almost certainly an exercise in perjury.
“I told Mr. Warner I was upset he had caused these payments to be made. I noted that in 21 years of working together in CONCACAF we had never paid anyone for a vote,” Blazer said in the sworn statement.
Warner must have sputtered. He had supposedly given Blazer a cut of the $10 million he allegedly received for voting in favor of South Africa hosting the 2010 World Cup.
But Warner could not say that without putting himself in a far deeper hole. Warner resigned, telling reporters only, “The general secretary that I had employed, who worked with me for 21 years, with the assistance of elements of FIFA has sought to undermine me in ways that are unimaginable.”
By several accounts, Warner subsequently became less than circumspect about Blazer’s considerable excesses. Word of them reached the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn. The day came in November 2011 when agents from the FBI and the IRS approached Blazer as he cruised a Manhattan street in a motorized scooter. The IRS takes a very dim view of those who pilfer millions and do not even file their taxes for a decade.
As was first reported by the New York Daily News, the agents offered Blazer a simple proposition: “We can take you away in handcuffs now—or you can cooperate.”
By the News’s account, the agents subsequently presented Blazer with a keychain containing a miniature microphone and directed him to record a series of meetings with FIFA officials.
The New York Times subsequently discounted the import of the News’s revelations, sniffing, “It was fascinating, colorful and compelling. But Blazer isn’t the Mr. Big of corruption in FIFA. And never was.”
What Blazer had become was the Mr. Big of informants in FIFA. The result was the 47-count, 161-page Indictment 15 CR 0252 (RJD) (RML), announced on Wednesday by Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey.
The 14 defendants face up to 20 years in jail on charges including racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering. A number had been arrested at a five-star hotel in Switzerland, where they were attending a FIFA meeting. Extradition is expected to give them a full measure of the difference between Zurich’s Baur au Lac and Brooklyn’s federal court.
“These individuals and organizations engaged in bribery to decide who would televise games, where the games would be held, and who would run the organization overseeing organized soccer worldwide,” Lynch said.
Richard Weber, IRS chief of criminal investigation, said, “This is the World Cup of fraud, and today we are issuing FIFA a red card.”
The big red card stars Blazer as “Co-Conspirator #1.” Warner is among those charged. Two sons of Warner, Daryll and Daryan, have already pleaded guilty. One, identified in the indictment only as “Co-Conspirator #14,” was allegedly directed by his father in the early 2000s to fly to Paris and collect a briefcase stuffed with cash in $10,000 bundles from a “high ranking South African bid committee official.”
As the voting on who would host the 2010 World Cup drew nearer, Warner allegedly told Co-Conspirator #1—Blazer—that South Africa had offered to pay $10 million to “support the African diaspora.” Warner allegedly promised Blazer that he would receive $1 million in exchange for a pro-South Africa vote.
“Warner made three payments to Co-Conspirator #1, totaling over $750,000, in partial payment of the $1 million that Warner had earlier promised Co-Conspirator #1 as part of the bribe scheme,” the indictment says.
Blazer has already pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing, which has apparently been delayed as he continues to cooperate in anticipation of leniency. He is now 70 and suffering from colon cancer.
As a soccer dad nearly four decades ago, Blazer had not been much good when it came to strategy and the fine points of what is rightly called “the beautiful game.”
But he had been great at scheduling matches and arranging end-of-season dinners for his 6-year-old son’s team in New Rochelle, outside New York City.
And he had more time than most young dads, having started a button-making business in Queens when he was 19 and smiley faces were just becoming big. He sold it before the craze passed and became a modest success story at 27.
But he wanted more and more and more as his organizing smarts and New York hustle subsequently took him to the highest levels of organized soccer, which proved to be at the lower levels of human existence.
And to make it all sadder, the Facebook page for Blazer’s now-grown son has this to say:
“Worked at CONCACAF.”