clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Joe Montana unknowingly passes on FBI sting operation

The 49ers legend sat down for an unproductive lunch with an undercover federal agent investigating a far-reaching California political corruption case.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

An undercover FBI agent posing as a real estate investor tried to lure NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana into a sting operation related to a far-reaching California political contributions scandal, according to a report from Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross of SFGate.

Montana's company is developing a hotel, restaurant and other offices on land close to the new stadium, which will open next season. The pretext for the FBI meeting centered on a possible investment in the hotel complex. The agent reportedly presented himself as an "honest businessman," but Montana showed "no interest in taking on a new partner." It's unclear what exactly the agent suggested to Montana, as the report says that there is "no indication that Montana was asked to do anything illegal."

Simply put, the stadium and the ensuing surrounding development is big business, and with a corruption case the size of the one against Leland Yee, it's not surprising that authorities were sniffing around all of the big development projects in recent years.

Reports initially surfaced in May that Montana was contacted as part of a series of probes that cast a wide net across California. Monday's report echoes the sentiment that there was no reason to suspect Montana was actually doing anything wrong. The aforementioned wide net was cast as part of the Yee case (the San Francisco Chronicle has an entire section devoted to the case).

Yee, a California senator, was charged with becoming involved in illegal activities to raise money for his elections and take care of debt. Lee is accused of soliciting donations from undercover FBI agents in exchange for "official acts," and is accused of gun trafficking. Potential government development contracts are just one thing that could be awarded as an "official act," which is why people involved in such development, like Montana, were caught in the net.

It's worth noting that James Brosnahan, a defense attorney for Yee, is suggesting that the government took things too far, stating that stings generally only occur if they have "real reason to believe someone is committing a crime," but that in this case, they "Fanned out all over California to see who would talk to them about anything." Of course, it's in this attorney's best interest to paint the FBI as unreasonable in any way, though it does add fuel to the "it's unfortunate that Montana has to have his name mixed up in this at all" fire.