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Prolific sports bettor charged with making violent threats against athletes

USC football players take the field before a game against Arizona State on Nov. 9.
(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

On March 9, 2019, a Pepperdine basketball player received four direct messages on his Instagram account.

“Your throat will be severed with a dull knife.”

“Your entire family will be beheaded and burned alive.”

“I will enter your home as you sleep and kill you.”

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“Watch your back, you’re a dead man walking.”

The next day, authorities contacted Instagram, launching a federal investigation that uncovered more than 300 accounts had been similarly targeted, primarily those belonging to college and professional athletes, by a prolific bettor. The man, Benjamin Patz — also known as “Parlay Patz” — was charged last week with transmitting threats in interstate or foreign commerce.

The complaint, filed Feb. 24 in the U.S. District Court in Tampa, Fla., was announced Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.

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On Dec. 17, 2019, an Action Network story posted by Darren Rovell called Patz, 23 “the latest fascination of the gambling world” and said he had won more than $1.1 million in less than two months. In the story, Rovell wrote about how Patz attended high school in Napa and college in New York, and how he was considering a move back to California.

On the same day the article was posted, according to the complaint, federal investigators obtained a search warrant for Patz’s email account. Two months earlier, Patz had sent this message to a USC football player, according to authorities: “Please, drop another pass why don’t you.” He also messaged another Instagram user: “I have 30k on ... USC and they’re stressing me the ... out.”

On the day of Super Bowl LIII, after betting $10,000 on the Rams to win and watching the New England Patriots actually win, he allegedly messaged two Patriots players, threatening to “rape and murder” the families of the players.

In 2019, after Sweden beat the German team he had bet in the Women’s World Cup, the complaint said he messaged one of the players on the Swedish team, threatening that “I’m going to rape and dismember you” and “I will sever your aorta while you sleep.”

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The complaint also alleges Patz sent similarly threatening messages to players on 10 Major League Baseball teams, including this one to a member of the Tampa Bay Rays: “Unfortunately 0-5 against the Chicago White Sox isn’t going to cut it. Because of your sins, I will have to behead you and your family.”

None of the athletes are named in the complaint; they are identified only by initials.


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