Federal authorities in Florida on Wednesday charged a 23-year-old sports bettor known as "Parlay Patz" with transmitting threats of violence directed at professional and collegiate athletes and their friends and families.
According to the criminal complaint, Benjamin Tucker Patz of New York used multiple anonymous accounts on social media in 2019 to make threats against athletes, including members of the New England Patriots, several Major League Baseball teams and multiple college basketball and football players. Some of the threats contained derogatory terms and racial slurs.
Patz is charged with transmitting threats in interstate or foreign commerce. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of up to five years in federal prison.
Patz did not immediately respond to phone and email messages from ESPN.
On March 9, 2019, Patz allegedly sent four Instagram direct messages to an unidentified Pepperdine basketball player, stating, "Your throat will be severed open with a dull knife," "Your entire family will be beheaded and burned alive," "I will enter your home as you sleep and kill you" and "Watch your back, you're a dead man walking."
In an affidavit, FBI Special Agent Daniel Nowak said the Instagram account behind the threats to the Pepperdine player was registered with an email address linked to Patz. The criminal complaint identifies similar threats made on Instagram against a college basketball player for Arizona, players for the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays, and the girlfriend of an Atlanta Braves player.
The complaint claims that approximately 18 messages were sent from the Instagram account @parlaypatz to college and professional football and basketball players. More than 300 more threatening messages were directed at players from anonymous accounts that authorities believe are linked to Patz.
"Your worthlessness costed me over 100,000$ tonight! Sad!" a Dec. 22, 2019, message from @parlaypatz to a college basketball player for Arizona said. Arizona lost to St. John's 70-67 the previous night.
Citing betting records from bookmaker William Hill, investigators allege that Patz placed a parlay wager on July 25, 2019, on the Cleveland Indians, four other MLB teams and a professional tennis player. Roughly 45 minutes before the Indians played Kansas City, a Royals player received two direct messages on Instagram, stating, "I will cut open the throat of your baby" and "You will die."
On Feb. 3, 2019, according to the complaint, Patz posted a screenshot of a $10,000 bet on the Los Angeles Rams against the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. On the same day, the complaint states that multiple players for the Patriots received direct messages on Instagram threatening to "rape" and "murder" family members.
"His substantial and persistent online sports wagering suggests that Patz may have threatened athletes who played in games on which he had unsuccessfully wagered and lost money," Nowak said in his affidavit, "or that he may have tried to influence the outcome of upcoming sports events on which he had wagered."
U.S. attorney's office spokeswoman Amy Filjones said Patz was charged in the Middle District of Florida because the Rays players were there when he allegedly made threats to them after they lost a home game to the White Sox in July.
It wasn't immediately clear if Patz would face charges in other districts for the other threats. He had arranged to turn himself in but wasn't yet in custody Wednesday evening, Filjones said. It wasn't known if he had an attorney.
"The safety of our players and staff is paramount and all threats are taken seriously," Rays spokesman Dave Haller said in a statement. "The Rays and the players involved are cooperating with the FBI as the legal process continues.''
Patz gained notoriety in the sports betting community and was profiled in the media after he reportedly won multiple high-dollar parlay bets, leading to the "Parlay Patz" nickname. His @parlaypatz Instagram account was still up Wednesday, including posts about his winning more than $333,000 on 13-team parlay in November.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.