Gambler. Businessman. Philanthropist.
Las Vegan Billy Walters is all three, and his ability to read golf greens, cards, and people has made him rich — and of interest to authorities.
He has faced prosecution four times but was only convicted once — a misdemeanor gambling count in his native Kentucky in the 1980s. Today he is the target of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York, where he prosecutes Wall Street’s white collar criminals.
Walters faces conspiracy, securities fraud, and wire fraud charges in connection with profitable stock transactions in Dean Foods and another company. Thomas C. Davis, a former Dean Foods board chairman and Walters golfing buddy, has pleaded guilty in the case and is cooperating with prosecutors.
This is the latest chapter in Walters’ story, which began with him hustling pool as a youngster in his Munfordville, Ky., hometown. He found his way to Las Vegas as a hard-living young man who won a lot — and lost a lot — at the card tables, sports books and golf courses.
“Walters' greatest strength in my mind is his ability to get insider information to use that information to best benefit," Smith said, "To develop the information but also to read the players”
After he quit drinking, Walters embarked on a successful business career that included developing golf courses and owning car dealerships.
“He is constantly pushing the envelope to get the best odds, the best deal to turn something that looks like a loss leader into something he can make a profit with,” Smith said.
He became a major donor to Opportunity Village, a workshop for the intellectually challenged where his disabled son is a client.
KNPR contributor and longtime newspaper columnist John L. Smith chronicles the Walters saga in a lengthy piece in the current issue of Desert Companion magazine, which is published by Nevada Public Radio.
John L. Smith, KNPR contributor and award-winning writer
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