The Jacksonville Jaguars have asked FanDuel to reimburse them for some or all of the approximately $20 million in stolen proceeds a former employee lost on the site, but the company is unwilling to pay, a source familiar with the situation told ESPN.
Amit Patel, a midlevel finance manager, has pleaded guilty to stealing $22 million through a virtual credit card system the Jaguars used for expenses. Sources with knowledge of the case told ESPN that Patel lost about $20 million of the funds on daily fantasy and sports bets at FanDuel, which had assigned him a VIP host. He lost about $1 million on DraftKings, sources said.
Patel transferred money directly from the team VCC to FanDuel, sources said.
The source familiar with the situation said discussions are ongoing among FanDuel, the Jaguars and the NFL on what the source called “a settlement.” However, the source said, “The way they see it … we got this money fair and clear. It’s not our problem that we have to forfeit it back to you.”
“I would be gobsmacked if it happened,” the source added.
FanDuel and the NFL declined to comment. The Jaguars did not respond to requests for comment.
Patel siphoned the funds over 3½ years, according to federal court documents. In December, he pleaded guilty to fraud charges in federal court in Jacksonville, Florida. He faces up to 30 years in prison and a $500,000 fine when he is sentenced March 12.
Sources said FanDuel alerted the NFL to Patel’s betting in January 2023 after he placed traditional sports bets in Tennessee. The amounts and types of wagers that triggered the investigation are unknown. The Jaguars had no knowledge of the embezzlement scheme or Patel’s extensive daily fantasy habit until they were notified by the NFL, team and league sources said.
It’s not clear what recourse the Jaguars might have to recoup the losses. Under federal law, FanDuel has an obligation to make sure funds used for sports betting were legally obtained, but the regulations are murkier for daily fantasy.
“Gambling sites have a duty to perform ‘Anti-Money Laundering’ and ‘Know Your Client’ procedures to ensure they do not onboard funds of an illicit origin,” said Stephen Bell, an attorney who practices in white-collar criminal cases. “Where the size of a customer’s bets far outweighs their income, red flags are present and should require additional due diligence to confirm the funds are clean.”
Online records show Patel was a high-stakes and high-volume daily fantasy player on FanDuel and DraftKings, both of which are official betting partners of the NFL. Patel played daily fantasy sports as far back as 2017, the records show, and his play escalated in 2021 and 2022. ESPN previously reported that Patel played daily fantasy under the username “ParlayPicker” and was believed to have racked up big losses playing against elite competition in contests with buy-ins upward of $24,000.
One veteran daily fantasy player told ESPN on condition of anonymity that they believe ParlayPicker is “the biggest loser ever on FanDuel.”
“He was legendarily bad,” the person said.
Federal authorities say Patel lived an extravagant lifestyle while employed with the Jaguars that included chartering private jets, reserving luxury hotels, acquiring multiple vehicles and purchasing cryptocurrency, a country club membership, spa treatments and a wristwatch that cost more than $95,000.
Co-workers assumed Patel’s family was wealthy. One former team employee said they remember seeing Patel’s lavish lifestyle on his social media accounts, which he has since deleted.
“I remember on Instagram he was taking baller-style trips all the time. In the Hamptons, Miami, living a large life. Bottle service at clubs,” the former employee said. “There was no way he could have afforded the lifestyle based on the Jaguar salary.”
In a Dec. 7 statement, Patel’s attorney, Alex King, denied that Patel funded his lifestyle with the stolen money and said his home and car were bought with family or earned money.
“Mr. Patel did not use the Jaguars’ VCC to fund his lifestyle, but in a horribly misguided effort to pay back previous gambling losses,” King said.
Patel said during a December court appearance that he has a “gambling disorder” and is seeing a therapist weekly for treatment. He said he underwent treatment for alcohol and substance abuse from March to June last year.
ESPN’s Michael DiRocco contributed to this report.