Bad bluff: Poker pros victims of fake sports betting accounts created in their names

Several poker pros have said fraudulent sports betting accounts have been created under their names. AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

Dozens of fraudulent accounts were set up on online sports betting apps in recent weeks, many using the personal information of professional poker players, and unauthorized bank withdrawals upwards of $10,000 were processed in what one alleged victim calls one of the worst thefts in the poker community's history.

Several of the fraudulent accounts were created on BetMGM's sports betting app.

"We're aware of a potential incident and are actively investigating," a BetMGM spokesperson said in a statemen to ESPN. "The security of our patrons' accounts is of the utmost importance to us. We encourage any impacted patrons to contact our customer service department directly."

Online payment processor Global Payments Gaming Solutions, one of the deposit options on BetMGM and other online gambling sites, said in a statement that it is assisting law enforcement with an investigation into "fraudulent accounts set up at unaffiliated third parties using stolen personal information."

"There has been no security breach or fraudulent accounts opened at our gaming business in connection with this investigation," a spokesperson from Global Payments said in a statement. "The protection of our customers and their clients' information and funds is our top priority and we are working with these third parties to ensure any impacted individuals are refunded."

The company did not respond to questions about the scope of the fraud, what authorities were involved in the investigation or what steps have been taken to make sure the issue doesn't persist.

Todd Witteles, a well-known poker pro from California, said a betting account at BetMGM in West Virginia was opened under his name using a $10,000 deposit directly from his checking account. Witteles says he does not have an account with any BetMGM site and has never been to West Virginia. On the same day the account was set up, a $7,500 withdrawal to a Venmo debit card was processed. The leftover $2,500 was withdrawn in the same fashion Nov. 4, Witteles said.

"They withdrew to a different account on the same day without ever playing on the account," Witteles told ESPN on Friday.

Witteles said he is working with a local detective and his bank, but as of Friday, his $10,000 had not been returned. Las Vegas poker pro Joseph Cheong tweeted that he had $9,8000 debited by BetMGM, and many other poker players also posted on social media that they had been impacted. Some players who were impacted for lesser amounts told ESPN that they had received their funds back. Witteles estimates the number of victims could be upwards of 50.

"This is definitely the worst case of any kind of bank account theft in poker history," he said. "I've seen cheating scandals at the poker table, online and live that have resulted in bigger thefts than this, but as far as directly stealing out of people's bank accounts, I've never seen anything like this."