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Fiesta Bowl seeks to stay non-profit

Feb. 5, 2013 at 5:02 PM   |   Comments

PHOENIX, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- The former top executive of the Fiesta Bowl owes $75,509 in back taxes on items he charged to the non-profit that puts on the marquee college football game.

John Junker, fired in March 2011 for allegedly using the non-profit's money to pay for strip club and golf outings and to illegally reimburse employees for political donations, pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges in 2012 and is awaiting sentencing. The Arizona Republic of Phoenix said he faces a short federal prison stint or probation.

The Fiesta Bowl made the tax disclosures as part of its bid to remain a tax-exempt non-profit. The Fiesta Bowl's contract with the Bowl Championship Series runs out in 2014, when college football is scheduled to move to a six-team playoff format. If the Fiesta Bowl wants to host one of those games -- and continue to draw the tens of millions of dollars in economic impact to Arizona -- it will need to sign on again to host one of the playoff games.

Junker, who made $618,000 as chief executive officer of the Fiesta Bowl, making him the highest paid BCS official prior to his dismissal, allegedly used money from the non-profit to lead a lavish lifestyle and curry favor with politicians. A federal investigation revealed he authorized payments to Fiesta Bowl employees to reimburse them for donations to various politicians, which is illegal.

Officials said changes have been made in the management structure to prevent any future incidents of fraud of misuse of the non-profit's money.

"The bowl has done literally everything it could have done over the last two years to deal with all the problems of the prior management and to make all the proper fixes and changes to position itself as a fully compliant and proper tax-reporting, non-profit organization," said Nathan Hochman, a bowl attorney and former head of the U.S. Department of Justice's Tax Division.

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