Rochester bookie Joseph Ruff pleaded guilty to extortion, illegal gambling, and money-laundering in a federal court, which included extortion of $230,000 from Minnesota Wild hockey player Thomas Vanek. Ruff’s attorney claimed Vanek owed Ruff more than $10 million.
Ruff never threatened Vanek with physical harm if he did not pay. Instead, Ruff claimed he would receive the physical harm if Vanek did not pay his debt.
“According to the law, was it extortion?” said Ruff’s lawyer Matthew Parrinello. “Yes.”
WHEC Rochester reporter Berkeley Bean spoke to Parrinello outside of the courthouse:
Brean: “How much money did Thomas Vanek owe your client?”
Parrinello: “A lot of money.”
Brean: “How much?”
Parrinello: “$10 million.”
Brean: “What does that tell you?”
Parrinello: “That he bet a lot and wasn’t very good.”
Vanek bet on football and basketball, not hockey. However, Vanek’s agent Steve Bartlett said Vanek actually owed between $1 million and $2 million.
“It’s complete fiction,” said Bartlett. “Despite his making some bad decisions, he was the victim of extortion. I can assure you that Thomas Vanek will probably never bet a dollar again.”
Vanek paid Ruff $230,000, which was sent to an unnamed person in Connecticut. This person laundered the money and sent it back to Ruff and his brother Mark. Papers claim Ruff “used $40,000 of the money for a wedding celebration at the Irondequoit Country Club.”