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Former USC football player set to plead guilty in gambling, drug case

Former USC football player set to plead guilty in gambling, drug case
Owen Hanson pleaded guilty to charges of leading an illegal sports gambling and drug-smuggling ring. (KTLA)

A former USC football player accused of being the kingpin of an international drug-trafficking ring and offshore gambling operation is expected to plead guilty in the case, according to court records.

Owen Hanson is set to change his plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mitchell Dembin on Jan. 10 in San Diego federal court, documents show.

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Details of the plea agreement have not been made public.

Hanson is among 22 people charged in the San Diego-based FBI investigation. About half have pleaded guilty.

The case has captured widespread attention, including stories on the major television networks, in New York tabloids and in Rolling Stone magazine.

Hanson, who played football at USC during the years Pete Carroll coached the team, was arrested in September 2015 at the Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad. He initially was charged with coordinating a drug transaction, but the prosecution soon widened to accuse him of overseeing a drug and gambling empire, and using threats and violence to hold clients accountable.

Hanson is charged with running ODOG Enterprises, a gambling operation out of Peru with clients nationwide. He got on the FBI's radar while agents were investigating another gambling ring there, Macho Sports.

Prosecutors say Hanson also trafficked cocaine, methamphetamine and Ecstasy in the U.S. and Australia. Assistant U.S. Atty. Andrew Young said at Hanson's latest hearing that the defendant had trafficked "well over a ton of cocaine."

Prosecutors have described Hanson in court as having numerous ties to Mexico, including building a home in Cabo San Lucas and obtaining a fake Mexican identification card.

Australian officials got involved when Hanson was implicated in an incident that involved a mysterious suitcase full of $702,000 in cash in 2011. Hanson had been in the country partly to persuade a professional gambler, Robert "RJ" Cipriani, to launder $2.5 million through the casinos, according to court documents and Cipriani.

Cipriani said he gambled away the money on purpose and fled to the United States, where Hanson threatened him and his wife with death unless the $2.5 million was paid back, according to court documents.

Cipriani took his story to the FBI, and the case against Hanson widened.

Hanson's notice of a plea deal comes a week after another defendant, Los Angeles private investigator Daniel Portley-Hanks, pleaded guilty to extortion. The investigator is accused of digging up personal information on ODOG clients to collect money, as well as helping Hanson with threats against Cipriani.

Portley-Hanks has said in media interviews that he didn't realize what Hanson was really up to.

kristina.davis@sduniontribune.com

Davis writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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