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NBA Ref Quits After Charges Filed

June 25, 1998

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Joey Crawford is the eighth NBA referee named in a scheme to downgrade first-class airline tickets purchased by the league and pocket the difference without telling the IRS.

Crawford, 46, of Havertown, offered his resignation and will plead guilty to a federal charge of tax fraud, his attorneys said in a statement.

``Mr. Crawford expresses his deepest regret over the conduct,″ the statement said.

Crawford failed to report $82,500 in taxable income from 1991 to 1993, authorities said Wednesday.

Five NBA officials already have pleaded guilty. At least four were sentenced to three years probation. George Toliver of Harrisonburg, Va., also was fined more than $30,000 and confined to his home for six months, and Mike Mathis of Cincinnati was sentenced to four months of home confinement.

The maximum penalty is three years in prison.

Two other referees have been charged in Georgia.

Crawford was a member of the union committee that negotiated a collective bargaining agreement for referees with the NBA. Under the agreement, the league was required to buy first-class tickets on plane trips longer than two hours.

According to the IRS, Crawford was allowed to buy cheaper tickets and keep the savings, but the referee bent the rules when he pretended to pay more for tickets so the NBA would under-report his income on W-2 tax forms.

According to U.S. Attorney Michael Stiles, Crawford bought discounted airline tickets to travel to NBA games, but submitted receipts for higher-priced airline tickets that had been voided long before takeoff.

Crawford also redeemed frequent flyer miles for free tickets, but told the NBA he made those trips at first-class and full-coach fares, authorities said.

The NBA told referees about their tax obligations for travel expenses, according to the charge filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

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