Weeks removed from the charges against a sports bettor for threatening athletes, it’s worth taking a closer look at exactly what is alleged and what it could mean moving forward.
On March 4, the Department of Justice issued a press release saying that Benjamin Tucker Patz, a 23-year-old resident of New York, was charged with transmitting threats in interstate or foreign commerce.
Patz, who achieved internet fame thanks to his success in betting parlays, faces five years in federal prison for transmitting threats to professional and amateur athletes via social media accounts.
Patz was released on a $100,000 bond over the weekend and awaits trial. His bond conditions limit his use of social media, restrict him from wagering and have caused him to turn in his passport.
Who is ‘Parlay Patz?’
“Parlay Patz” is a sports betting poster child whose fame arose as Darren Rovell’s reporting on his longshot story.
Patz rose to fame in November 2019 when Rovell wrote a feature on the college student. Patz made a near-daily trek across the border from Manhattan into New Jersey, much like hundreds of other New Yorkers are purported to do for the sole purpose of legally placing bets.
Living the legal sports betting dream
Ongoing reporting portrayed Patz as a master of against-all-odds parlays, which included hitting 15-leg and 13-leg parlays. Last year, Patz reportedly won more than $600,000 in three weeks.
Patz claimed that he had, three years prior, hit a parlay bet offshore that would have paid out $75,000, but he was only to get about $12,000 of that.
Patz appeared to have it all, which is likely what made his story attractive. Patz was young, had previously been an offshore bettor who was recaptured by the legal market, and was seemingly immune to bad beats.
Perhaps like the stereotype of a millennial sports bettor, Patz spent his money loudly. He commuted to a New Jersey parking lot to place wagers in his 2019 Mercedes C63 coupe and flew to the British Virgin Islands in a chartered plane.
But, all was not well with the bettor who Rovell described as “showing very little emotion” with $40,000 on the line.
The alleged threats
The affidavit submitted by an FBI Special Agent details a history of disturbing and threatening messages purportedly sent from Instagram accounts linked to Patz.
The harassment predates the stardom Patz attained.
The first harassing message was sent a year ago on March 9 to a Pepperdine University basketball player. It is reported that Patz threatened to decapitate the player and instructed him to watch his back.
The day after these threats, law enforcement filed an emergency disclosure request with Facebook for the user information behind the account that made them. Facebook traced it back to Patz’s Gmail address.
Not just amateurs
Patz also allegedly issued threats to professional athletes via Instagram: a Toronto Blue Jays player and a Tampa Bay Rays player on July 20, 2019.
The threats were not limited to players. He allegedly threatened an Atlanta Braves player’s girlfriend over Instagram.
Patz purportedly went on a several months-long campaign of threatening to behead professional athletes of various major sports.
The investigation into Patz
On Sept. 25, 2019, a magistrate judge in the Middle District of Florida issued a search warrant for two Gmail accounts believed by the special agent to belong to Patz and associated with the threats.
The search revealed that 307 Instagram accounts, mostly belonging to professional and college athletes, were sent messages, many being threats.
Information in the email accounts indicated that they might belong to Patz.
Patz, the sports bettor
The complaint makes a note of Patz’s gambling heroics.
Indeed, it appears that information in the articles that made Patz a gambling celebrity also linked him to the harassing messages.
One of the article’s references Patz’s suspended Twitter account and a quote from the gambler stating:
“Maybe it’s good I couldn’t get a Twitter account because I’d probably go back at people. At the end of the day, though, my life has improved because of the techniques I’ve used that have won me all this and what anyone has to say about it doesn’t really change that.”
Losing bets provide a trail
Investigators acting pursuant to a warrant searched Patz’s betting records with William Hill. As a result, found where Patz lost, the threats often followed.
Patz is charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 875, which states:
Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
What to make of this?
Firstly, Parlay Patz is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.
Law enforcement takes all threats seriously, whether against athletes or not. Patz is facing up to five years in prison, which is the maximum sentence. There is a vast range in possible punishments if Patz is convicted.
The spectacle that the Department of Justice made with regards to Patz’s criminal complaint is a somewhat exceptional event. It’s likely an indication that the Department of Justice wants to make known that the type of behavior that Patz is accused of will not be tolerated. It is likely also related to Patz’s celebrity.
Not new but potentially renewed
Unfortunately, threats against athletes are not new. But now that gambling has been legalized and is grown in social acceptance, it is imperative that law enforcement take the steps necessary to protect athletes from individuals who threaten them. Athlete safety is essential to maintaining the integrity of both the sporting event and the betting market.
One of the aspects that the alleged Patz situation reveals is the importance of having access to legal US sportsbooks.
William Hill appears to have played an essential role in identifying a pattern of behavior in the alleged acts. This cooperation would be unlikely from an unregulated book.