The Tape That Ties Sharpton

January 22, 1988

In a 1983 Abscam-type sting operation aimed at infiltrating boxing promoter Don King's organization, FBI special agent VictorQuintana posed as a wealthy South American who wanted to promote prize fights. Quintana, wearing a body recorder, met with the Rev. Al Sharpton Jr.; Michael Franzese, a reputed Colombo family capo and son of Sonny Franzese, also reputed to be a capo in the Colombo family, and Reggie Barrett, a former trainer posing as Quintana's partner. Quintana was trying to convince King that his bogus company, TKO Promotions, had millions in ready cash. The operation was part of a four-year probe of boxing and King. Michael Franzese is serving a 10-year prison term after pleading guilty to a federal racketeering charge.

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Victor Quintana: "This is agent Victor Quintana. Today is the 12th of January, 1983. The time now is approximately 8:56. At approximately 10 a.m. I expect the arrrival of Michael Franzese. He will be accompanied by Rev. Al Sharpton. This device will be activated by me at the appropriate time."

Michael Franzese: So just getting along with this. Don King's concern right now is naturally, you know, he just got word and he's doing everything to be lily-white because they're still watching him and so-and-so for, and he's got an obligation to the government to make sure he's got no problems because the guy stuck his neck out to do what he did. Okay, so {King's} major concern was the same thing we're worried about. We're worried about getting paid from him.

Al Sharpton: All right.

Franzese: This is another thing I wanted to bring up with you. You know, we get involved with this guy {King} everything will be opened because that's the way it is with every investigation there is. Usually we enter into some kind of deal. And I got to let him know that everything we enter into is on the up-and-up and the money, there won't be any problem. That everything can be verified. You see we got to have this thing 100 percent clear. Because if we get involved with him it gets out right away.

Quintana: What else do you have there?

Franzese: Basically that's it. As far as getting involved with him, he was wide open to me, he said it would be `my pleasure. Let's go ahead,' he said. `I like doing business with you.'

Sharpton: All right. Sure.

Quintana: Did you talk about anything specific with {King}?

Franzese: We talked about doing several promotions he's got coming up . . . I spoke to him about doing something, not a hit and miss, but on a longrange basis. We can do it as TKO Promotions in accordance with Don King . . . We would have a lasting relationship . . .

Sharpton: The bottom line with Don is {that} . . . `Michael says it's okay. It's okay.' That's how Don left it. And his exact words were, `He is in a delicate position, Michael, but that's the way I want to do it.'

Franzese: We just, you know, said, things with Muhammad {Ali} went bad, checks being passed the one time and some bullshit.

Sharpton: Checks?

Franzese: You want one criminal to sit there and say his reputation is infallible and all that? We don't want to go in right away and say one guy's reputation is better than the other guy's."

Franzese: "If it comes out I'm in this . . . "

Quintana: "I don't want some reporter digging up an article."

Franzese: I have no problems other than what they should be. I got no convictions. I did no time . . . I wouldn't want people to indict, so what do I have to bring heat on everybody for no reason?

Sharpton: Just because of who you are.

Franzese: That's all. So I stay in the background two or three times, the fourth time, the fifth time, when it's established, I want to surface, when it can do the less damage. Unfortunately, some of us are in that position.

Quintana: I wouldn't want to see your name.

Franzese: There's no way I can justify what I did, 'cause then they would make it an organized-crime scheme, money-laundering and the whole thing.

Sharpton: Let me say this, and I'm saying this out of respect for the man. Don King, remember one thing, the reason why I feel personally, Don is good people . . . I went to Don, talked to Don and Don met with Mike. It wasn't like Mike said, `Are we going in or are we not going in?' Don didn't have to have a meeting if he wasn't willing to deal. It wasn't where anybody behind Don said, `You got to meet with him.'

Franzese: I said, `Let's not go in there unless we go in there right.'

Sharpton: I think the key is what Mike says. You gonna have to find how far you want to go and I think Don and Mike can work this out. I think that Mike and you {Quintana} ought to sit down and talk. As far as I can see, my role will be anything you want it to be. You may say you don't want Don. But somebody got to play the role with Don. Don's got to feel he has somebody that can say, `They said this last night. Everything is cool.' So I'll play that role. `Don, Mike said so and so about this.' `Don, Bob Arum called.' You tell me what to tell him because I know how Don plays it . . . We may be able to make money. You know how the fight game is.

Franzese: Rev what are you going to do now. What's your plan? Are you going back to Don?

Sharpton: Yeah. I'm going back over to Don . . . Because if there's money on the line I'm moving on over to there.

Franzese: OK. All right, Reverend!

©1988 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.