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$150M in bribes, dozen schemes: US prosecutors' FIFA case

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US Prosecutors Accuse Fifa of Fraud

NEW YORK (AP) -- In accusing soccer federation leaders of tarnishing the sport by taking $150 million in bribes and payoffs, U.S. prosecutors laid out a sweeping corruption case that hinges on the testimony of insiders, including some who have agreed to cooperate in plea deals.

Prosecutors announced the racketeering conspiracy and other charges Wednesday against 14 defendants - nine current and former officials with global soccer governing body FIFA, four sports marketing executives and an accused intermediary.

They also revealed four others had pleaded guilty in secret proceedings dating to July 2013. It's believed some or all are cooperating in the investigation.

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$150M in bribes, dozen schemes: US prosecutors' FIFA case
Swiss attorney General Michael Lauber attends a press conference on June 17, 2015 in Bern. Swiss authorities are investigating the 2010 FIFA vote that awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
NAGOYA, JAPAN - DECEMBER 07: Chuck Blazer Chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA Club World Cup talks to the media during the FIFA Club World Cup Organising Committee Press Conference at Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel on December 7, 2011 in Nagoya, Japan. (Photo by Shaun Botterill - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27: An FBI agent wearing a mask carries a box from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27: FBI agents carry boxes and computers from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27: FBI agents carry boxes from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27: FBI agents carry boxes from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 27: Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks at a packed news conference at the U.S. Attorneys Office of the Eastern District of New York following the early morning arrest of world soccer figures, including officials of FIFA, for racketeering, bribery, money laundering and fraud on May 27, 2015 in New York City. The morning arrests took place at a hotel where FIFA members were attending a meeting for the world governing body of soccer (football) in Switzerland. The Justice Department unsealed a 47 count indictment early Wednesday charging 14 world soccer figures. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Costa Rican Football Federation acting President Jorge Hidalgo speaks during a press conference on May 27, 2015, in Lindora, 20 km west of San Jose, about the capture of Costa Rican Football Federation President Eduardo Li and six executives of FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland. AFP PHOTO / Ezequiel BECERRA (Photo credit should read EZEQUIEL BECERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
US Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announces charges against FIFA officials at a news conference on May 27, 2015 in New York. The soccer officials arrested on Wednesday in an investigation into the FIFA governing body have corrupted the international game, Lynch said Wednesday. She spoke after Swiss authorities acting on the US indictments detained several FIFA leaders in a dawn raid in Zurich as part of a corruption probe that has rocked the sport's governing body. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio arrives to give a press conference at the FIFA headquarters, on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio gives a press conference at the FIFA headquarters, on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio gives a press conference at the FIFA headquarters, on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
A staff waits prior to a press conference at the FIFA heaquarters on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA Director of Communications Walter de Gregorio attends a press conference at the FIFA headquarters on May 27, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain top FIFA football officials as part of a US investigation. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
FIFA Director of Communications Walter de Gregorio reacts during a press conference at the FIFA headquarters on May 27, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain top FIFA football officials as part of a US investigation. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
A man walks by the headquarters of the international soccer's top body FIFA in Zurich, on May 27, 2015. Swiss police raided the headquarters of FIFA in Zurich, seizing documents and data, the Swiss attorney-general's office said. The raids were part of an investigation already underway into money laundering and fraud involving FIFA's awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively, a statement said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
A cloud is seen above the headquarters of international soccer's top body FIFA, on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss policeraided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
A woman walks by a logo of international soccer's top body FIFA, on May 27, 2015 at the organization's headquarters in Zurich. Swiss policeraided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
Media gathers outside the Hotel Baur-au-Lac where Swiss authorities conducted an early morning operation on May 27, 2015 to arrest several top soccer officials and extradite them to the United States on federal corruption charges. FIFA said it was seeking to clarify the situation after six football officials were arrested in Zurich on the request of US authorities, suspected of receiving bribes worth millions of dollars. (Photo credit AFP/Getty Images)
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The fact that some guilty pleas came almost two years ago speaks to how long authorities have been gathering evidence, likely some of it from those defendants, said Alfredo F. Mendez, a former federal prosecutor who now is a white-collar criminal defense lawyer.

A long time between a first round of pleas and their disclosure is "a signal that cooperation is going on," Mendez said.

Prosecutors sealed the guilty pleas so they wouldn't "flag that there was investigation going on," said Timothy Heaphy, another former federal prosecutor and defense attorney. "That happens all the time in organized crime cases, whether white-collar or blue-collar."

Also telling is the extent of the allegations prosecutors have unveiled - the indictment runs 161 pages - indicating they're confident they have voluminous evidence, experts said.

Heaphy said such detail sends a message to defendants: "They know what we did. They have good information. That could be incentive to plead guilty and cooperate."

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the charges at a news conference packed with foreign journalists. The charges were filed by the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn, which she ran before becoming a cabinet member.

The indicted soccer officials "were expected to uphold the rules that keep soccer honest and to protect the integrity of the game," Lynch said. "Instead, they corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves."

With soccer officials gathered in Zurich to elect a new president, seven of the U.S. defendants were arrested there. Six of those arrested were opposing extradition to the U.S., the Swiss justice ministry said, without naming them.

Former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner turned himself over to police in Trinidad, and he was later released on $2.5 million bail. Warner did not enter a plea, but he denied any wrongdoing.

The others had yet to be arrested.

Meanwhile, Warner's two sons, Daryan and Daryll, entered secret guilty pleas in 2013. The indictment points to their possible cooperation by detailing how, in a scheme to fix a vote awarding the 2010 World Cup tournament to South Africa, Warner directed an unnamed co-conspirator - identified only as "a member of Warner's family" - to fly to Paris to "accept a briefcase containing bundles of U.S. currency in $10,000 stacks in a hotel room from a high-ranking South African bid committee official."

"Given the allegations that we've seen just in the papers, there seems little doubt who the payments went to and for what reason," said Andy Spalding, an international criminal law expert at the University of Richmond School of Law.

Prosecutors outlined 12 different schemes dating to 1991, most involving marketing and media rights to various events.

FIFA said it was cooperating with investigators and that it had already taken steps to root out corruption.

While the case has an international scope, prosecutors have noted that one entity at the heart of the case is headquartered in Miami, they've said some illegal transactions passed through U.S. banks, and some defendants are U.S. citizens.

"When you look at all of that, I think the government will argue that they have a reason for involvement in this," Mendez said.

"The Department of Justice is trying to send a message to FIFA: `If you're not going to police yourself, we're going to police you, if you're doing this kind of business in the United States.'"

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