WSOP Circuit Champion Sentenced to Prison for Fraud
Instead of facing a trial that could have sent him to prison for 20 years, a champion of the World Series of Poker Circuit and smaller tours plea bargained his way down to only an eight-year sentence after pleading guilty.
The story, as well as Thomas’ clean record, had an impact on the sentence, but Judge Failla stated that Thomas “preyed on financially distressed people.” “A lot of the money that was taken went to him and his enjoyment,” Failla stated in court as she handed down the sentence. Assistant U. S. Attorney Edward Imperatore added in more evidence, citing greed as the factor that saw the profits from the business go to benefit Thomas, including season tickets to the Buffalo Bills, trips, jewelry, cars, gambling and other casino entertainment.
Failla did go easy on Thomas with the sentence, but stated that she needed to “send a message” to others who might want to try the same tactics. He could have faced up to 16 years because of the plea bargain with prosecutors, a slight reduction from the 20 he could have faced if he had gone to trial. Instead of the maximum, Failla sentenced Thomas to eight years and four months.
Where Thomas and his company seemed to have gone astray was in the methods they employed to get people to pay off their debts. Thomas taught his employees to threaten them with lawsuits or other crimes that the customers had allegedly committed, even lying to the customers by saying they would be federally prosecuted and that “their conversations” on the phone could be used as evidence. Additionally, according to court documents presented during Thomas’ arrest, he told employees of the company not to show their scripts to anyone outside the office as they “weren’t legal” to use.
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