'El Wingador' sentenced for selling cocaine

During his sentencing on drug charges, Bill Simmons, five-time champion of the Wing Bowl eating contest, wipes away tears at the Gloucester County Courthouse. At right is his lawyer, David Bahuriak.
During his sentencing on drug charges, Bill Simmons, five-time champion of the Wing Bowl eating contest, wipes away tears at the Gloucester County Courthouse. At right is his lawyer, David Bahuriak. (   APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 06, 2013

WOODBURY "El Wingador" spent his last days of freedom putting his affairs in order.

He had breakfast with his elderly mother, took his son to midget football practice, attended his daughter's soccer practice, and made a special dinner for his family.

By the time he arrived at the Gloucester County Courthouse on Friday, Bill Simmons - five-time champion of the Wing Bowl competitive-eating contest - was prepared for the worst, but hoped for the best.

"I've disappointed so many people on what I did. I just want them to know that I am so, so sorry," Simmons said in an interview before his sentencing.

Superior Court Judge Christine Allen-Jackson then sentenced Simmons to seven years in prison for distributing cocaine in South Jersey.

He pleaded guilty in July to drug charges. If he completes an intensive supervision program, he could be released in several months.

Simmons told the judge that any sentence she could impose would not match the pain that he has caused his family. He said his son, Sean, 7, believes his father, a former truck driver, has to go away for work.

"I'm here to accept whatever you feel I deserve," a tearful Simmons told the judge. "I'm willing to accept my punishment as a man."

Dressed in a blue plaid shirt and khaki shorts, Simmons, 51, of Woodbury Heights, was immediately taken into custody. A half-dozen supporters in the courtroom, including his wife, Debbie, watched as he was led away.

"We're not turning our backs on him," his wife said. "We are in support of him, but not happy about the choices he made."

Simmons devoured his way to gluttony fame after he began competing in 1999 at the Wing Bowl, sports-talk radio station WIP's annual chicken wing-eating contest.

In urging the judge to reject a defense request for a lesser sentence, Assistant Gloucester County Prosecutor Alec Gutierrez said Simmons had been selling cocaine for at least a year.

Simmons was arrested in June 2012 in Harrison Township on distribution and other charges. Police said they found $8,000 worth of powder cocaine and $4,000 in cash in a 2010 Kia Soul bearing his celebrity moniker.

Investigators also searched two residences in Woodbury Heights linked to Simmons. A small "personal use" amount of cocaine alleged to belong to him was found in a residence not owned by Simmons, authorities said.

In his interview, Simmons said he began selling drugs to support his family after several business ventures failed.

"I just had a very, very dark secret that I had to do to survive," Simmons said. He said he didn't like it. "But what else was I going to do? Sometimes good people do bad things."

Simmons said his celebrity status as El Wingador made finding a job more difficult. He licensed wings under his brand name, appeared in KFC commercials, and concocted his own home-recipe barbecue sauce.

"My pride got in my way. I didn't like asking for help," Simmons said. "I lived by the sword. I died by the sword. I've pretty much lost everything."

The 6-foot-5, 330-pound Simmons left the local competition after winning in 2005. He returned in 2011. Last year, his 251-wing effort was trumped by Takeru Kobayashi, who, at 128 pounds, ate a record 337 wings.

Simmons said he purchased the drugs from a Dominican dealer in Philadelphia and transported them to South Jersey, where he sold them to friends. At first, he made about $200 a week, but eventually was getting about a $1,000 weekly, he said.

His attorney, David Bahuriak, said authorities began investigating Simmons after a longtime friend who purchased cocaine from him was arrested on drug charges.


 

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