Reports surfaced this week that National Hockey League star Thomas Vanek may have been the subject of an extortion attempt by a local gambling syndicate.
A Rochester, New York area bookmaker plead guilty last Thursday to laundering $230,000 in monies derived from gambling, a debt his attorney claims was made with a New York Islanders NHL team check. Vanek had previously played for the Islanders but is now with the Minnesota Wild.
Vanek acknowledges speaking before a grand jury investigating the case in question but has not been charged. The NHL player, through his attorney, denies any wrongdoing but Vanek’s agent has admitted that the Hockey player did wager only on NFL games.
"He's not the subject of any investigation. He's not in any way, shape or form in trouble with the government," Vanek’s agent Steve Bartlett said. "He was a witness against those guys."
In court, Ruff claimed that prosecutors had threatened to charge him with extortion had he not pleaded guilty.
“We’ve said the whole time that he’s not involved in (alleged extortion),” said Mark Ruff’s lawyer, James Wolford.
Matthew Parrinello, the attorney for Joseph Ruff, said on Tuesday, “I am aware that there has been an investigation into a possible conspiracy to extort.”
Specifics of the allegations of extortion were not immediately available.