The three officials who worked at Sunday's All-Star Game reportedly are among at least 35 NBA referees under IRS investigation for an alleged scheme involving millions of dollars in phony travel expenses.

The Sunday Oregonian reported the IRS is looking at allegations that referees swapped first-class airline tickets for cash and overreported travel expenses to the league for reimbursement, avoiding payment of income taxes on the difference.Some of the referees may have pocketed $100,000 or more during the five years ending with the 1993-94 season, the Portland newspaper reported.

NBA officials refused to discuss the report Sunday and officials of the referees' union could not be reached for comment.

A source close to the investigation told the newspaper that referees booked their flights, mostly first-class, and submitted photocopies of the tickets to the league for reimbursement.

But in many cases, the referees didn't use the tickets. Instead, they exchanged them for lower-priced tickets or used frequent-flier miles for their flights and swapped the first-class tickets for cash.

The NBA employs 54 referees. Each makes between $72,000 and $177,000 a year, working about 70 to 75 games a year.

The Sunday Oregonian said that among the active referees under investigation are Dick Bavetta, Steve Javie and Jack Nies, who officiated the All-Star Game. The newspaper said two former referees also are under investigation.

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