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José Hawilla, 74, Central Figure in Soccer Scandal, Dies

José Hawilla, 74, Central Figure in Soccer Scandal, Dies

“I did not agree with the practice,” he testified, “but unfortunately, you are practically forced to do that.”

Mr. Warner was indicted but is fighting extradition. Mr. Blazer pleaded guilty in 2013, became a government witness and died last year.

There have been 24 publicly announced individual guilty pleas in the case so far.

Mr. Hawilla was born on June 11, 1943, in São José do Rio Preto, Brazil, in the northwestern part of the state of São Paulo. His father, Fuad Elias Hawilla, was a salesman and small-business owner, and his mother, Georgina (Atra) Hawilla, was a homemaker.

Mr. Hawilla was a radio sports journalist before attending law school in Itapetinga, Brazil, and later covered sports on television. He then bought Traffic, a bus-stop advertising company, and branched into billboard advertising in soccer stadiums. He built it into what is believed to be Brazil’s largest sports marketing company, specializing in the rights to major international soccer tournaments.

He eventually expanded to the United States, where a subsidiary of his company, Traffic Sports USA, became a financially influential force in the North American Soccer League and bought one of its teams, the Carolina RailHawks, in 2010. Aaron Davidson, the president of Traffic Sports USA, became the chairman of the league.

But the team was sold five years later after the Justice Department revealed that Mr. Hawilla had pleaded guilty and Mr. Davidson had been indicted; Mr. Davidson pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and wire-fraud conspiracy and admitted to paying more than $14 million in bribes to soccer officials.

In March 2014, Mr. Hawilla recorded a conversation with Mr. Davidson in which they discussed whether a bribe to someone they referred to as Jeff had been paid; Mr. Davidson said that Jeff was angry because he had wanted more.

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