Bookie claims Thomas Vanek had $10 million in gambling debts

A New York bookie claims Minnesota Wild forward Thomas Vanek had over $10 million in gambling debts. (USATSI)
A New York bookie claims Wild forward Thomas Vanek had over $10 million in gambling debts. (USATSI)

A New York man pleaded guilty on Friday to illegal gambling, extortion and money laundering conspiracies that involved Minnesota Wild forward Thomas Vanek

Bookie Joseph Ruff admitted in court that he extorted a $230,000 payment from Vanek to pay off gambling debts that the NHL forward had built up. Vanek's name was not mentioned in court, but following the case Ruff's attorney, Matthew Parrniello, told the Democrat and Chronicle that Vanek was the target of the extortion, while adding that Vanek "wasn't very good" when it came to his wagers. 

According to Parrinello, Vanek actually owed upward of $10 million in gambling debts, a claim that Vanek's agent, Steve Bartlett, told ESPN's Craig Custance is "absolute fantasy" and a "complete fabrication." 

The extortion charge came from Ruff's admission that he lied to Vanek saying that Ruff would be hurt if he did not collect from Vanek.

From the Democrat and Chronicle:

Vanek was never threatened with any physical harm, Parrinello said. Instead, Ruff lied to Vanek and said that he — Ruff — would be hurt if he didn't collect some money toward what Vanek owed. "According to the law, was it extortion?" Parrinello said. "Yes."

Earlier this year it was reported that Vanek had made a $230,000 payment to the bookie by signing over one of his paychecks from the New York Islanders when he played for the team last season. 

Vanek has ties to the area in New York having played for both the NHL's Buffalo Sabres and the AHL's Rochester Americans during his career. According to Vanek's attorney and Ruff's attorney, he placed no bets on hockey and mainly gambled on football and basketball. 

Ruff is facing 41 months in prison under an agreement with the prosecuters if approved by a judge in March. 

CBS Sports Writer

Adam Gretz has been writing about the NHL and taking an analytical approach to the game since the start of the 2008 season. A member of the PHWA since 2015, he has spent more than three years covering... Full Bio

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