Chuck Blazer, the literal larger-than-life figure who rose from a Westchester County soccer dad to the most powerful American soccer executive, has died at 72. His final years were compounded by scandal and serious health issues as he simultaneously battled cancer while he was a cooperating witness for the government in the massive federal FIFA case.
The New York Times confirmed Blazer’s death late Wednesday through Blazer’s attorney. He had been in a New Jersey hospice care center.
Blazer, who grew up in Queens and later coached soccer in Westchester County, helped found the American Soccer League and was instrumental in bringing the men’s World Cup tournament to the U.S. in 1994. Blazer became secretary general of CONCACAF — the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football. Blazer’s longtime wingman was Trinidad’s Jack Warner, who was the longtime CONCACAF president.
While he was CONCACAF secretary general and a member of FIFA’s powerful Executive Committee, Blazer led a jet-set lifestyle that had him traveling the globe and hob-nobbing with the powerful and famous in politics, sports and entertainment. Blazer’s CONCACAF offices were located in Trump Tower on Fifth Ave., where he had two apartments, including one residence only for his cats. Ultimately Blazer’s decadent and corrupt lifestyle caught up with him.
A 2014 Daily News expose first reported Blazer’s role as a government informant in the sprawling probe into the corrupt and greedy underbelly of FIFA. The News report in 2014 told how the morbidly obese Blazer, who would tool around Manhattan on a motorized scooter, was approached by FBI and IRS agents in 2011 and told he could either cooperate with authorities or be taken away in handcuffs.
Documents reviewed by The News showed that Blazer didn’t declare income from 1992-98. From 1990-98, Blazer earned at least $ 21 million for running CONCACAF. The feds also held racketeering charges over Blazer’s head, one source told The News. Blazer wore a secret recording device to the 2012 Olympic Games in London, after he had agreed to become an informant. His recorded conversations with international figures became part of the evidence U.S. law enforcement authorities used to build the massive FIFA case.
While Blazer pleaded guilty in 2013, it wasn’t until May 2015 when a 47-count federal indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court. Then Attorney General Loretta Lynch, then FBI Director James Comey and other law enforcement authorities announced charges against 14 FIFA officials and soccer marketing executives. Charges included money laundering, wire fraud and racketeering.
The scandal sent shockwaves throughout the sport, and Blazer was the linchpin in the feds’ case. Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president at the time of the indictment, was eventually suspended and then banned in 2015 from taking part in any FIFA activities for six years. Blazer received a lifetime ban from FIFA in July 2015.
Mary Lynn Blanks, a longtime girlfriend of Blazer’s and a key figure in the book, “American Huckster,” (written by former Daily News sports editor Teri Thompson and Mary Papenfuss), which details Blazer’s life and the FIFA scandal, told The News late Wednesday that she was sad Blazer would probably be most remembered for his misdeeds.
“I’m glad he’s at peace, and that he doesn’t have to go through with the trial. I grieve for him because I think he did a lot of good things for soccer worldwide,” said Blanks. “This is the man who brought soccer to America and who helped create the women’s World Cup. The fact is, he did a lot of wonderful things for American soccer. The bad side is he turned to the dark side and that’s a shame. I thought he was a better man than that.
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