The attorney for a former Jacksonville Jaguars employee facing federal fraud charges said his client suffers from a gambling addiction that contributed to his alleged theft of more than $22 million from the franchise.
Federal investigators allege Amit Patel manipulated the Jaguars' virtual credit card (VCC) program to steal $22,221,454.40 during a scheme that began in September 2019 and ended in February after an NFL investigation and his subsequent termination.
In a statement released Thursday, Patel's attorney, Alex King, said his client "used VCC funds to gamble on Daily Fantasy Sports" on FanDuel and DraftKings and that "approximately 99% of the misappropriated funds" were related to gambling losses.
"The losses were most significant in the final months leading up to the NFL's investigation," King said in the statement, adding that Patel has been receiving treatment for his addiction since the spring.
FanDuel declined comment on the case. ESPN has reached out to DraftKings for comment.
In court filings this week, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida alleges that, in addition to his gambling, Patel used the proceeds from the scheme for personal travel that included chartered private jets and luxury hotels, and to purchase a condominium in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, multiple vehicles, sporting event tickets, cryptocurrency, a country club membership and luxury wristwatches, among other items and services.
"Mr. Patel did not use the Jaguars' VCC to fund his lifestyle, but in a horribly misguided effort to pay back previous gambling losses that utilized the Jaguars' VCC program," King said.
The NFL's gambling policy prohibits club and league employees from gambling on any sport and from participating in daily fantasy sports.
"A league review uncovered no evidence indicating any inside information was used or that any game was compromised in any way," NFL spokesperson Alex Riethmiller said in a statement to ESPN.
The court filing alleges that in his role with the team, Patel in October 2019 became the sole administrator of the Jaguars' VCC program, a payment method that functions like a traditional credit card account. Certain employees were allowed to use the VCC program for business-related purchases and expenses. Patel is accused of duplicating legitimate expenses in an electronic ledger, inflating amounts of legitimate transactions and entering fictitious transactions, and then using the money for personal purchases.
Patel has waived the indictment and will make his initial court appearance at a plea hearing Dec. 14 in Jacksonville.
"Mr. Patel is deeply remorseful and apologizes for his conduct," King said. "He loved working for the Jacksonville Jaguars and regrets his actions which have resulted in him both losing his dream job and damaging the organization. Mr. Patel remains in treatment and intends to seek ongoing treatment for the foreseeable future."
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