Attorney: Vanek had $10M in gambling losses, was target of extortion plot

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Some big developments from the illegal gambling ring that involved Minnesota forward Thomas Vanek, from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle:

A local bookie, Joseph Ruff, on Friday admitted to extorting a $230,000 payment from Vanek as partial payment of gambling losses Vanek owed. After the plea, Ruff’s attorney, Matthew Parrinello, said Vanek had owed upward of $10 million.

“He wasn’t very good,” Parrinello said of Vanek’s gambling performance.

Ruff pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to illegal gambling, an extortion conspiracy and a money-laundering conspiracy. The target of the extortion plot was not identified in court but Parrinello later identified the individual as Vanek.

UPDATE: Vanek’s agent, Steve Bartlett, told ESPN the report of $10 million in losses is “absolute fantasy,” and “complete fabrication.”

News of Vanek’s connection to the gambling ring surfaced in July, when his name appeared in an investigation that led to three individuals booked on multiple counts of gambling and money laundering charges.

In October, a report claimed Vanek endorsed one of his New York Islanders paychecks to Ruff — for $230,000 — to cover some of his gambling debts. That led to Bartlett addressing the situation, saying that while Vanek did wager on football, he was “not in any way, shape or form involved in any illegal activities or in trouble here.”

“He was a witness against this guy who was the bookmaker,” Bartlett explained. “He was the guy that wanted money and Thomas paid it to him. Thomas wasn’t involved in any bookmaking activities.

“Now people are like, ‘Oh, Thomas was a money launderer. That’s totally false. He was the bettor. He bet on football games. Obviously that’s what he was testifying to. It doesn’t take Einstein to figure that out.”

Following Bartlett’s statement, Vanek addressed the gambling issue himself.

“I’m not proud of the decisions I’ve made,” he said, adding that he no longer gambles.