‘I will sever your neck.’ Gambler who made $1 million threatened Rays, feds say

Benjamin Tucker Patz, 23, is accused in a federal criminal complaint of sending direct messages to professional and college athletes threatening to harm them and their families.
The Sam M. Gibbons United States Courthouse in downtown Tampa.
The Sam M. Gibbons United States Courthouse in downtown Tampa. [ Times ]
Published March 4, 2020|Updated March 5, 2020

TAMPA — A New York City man who made more than $1 million last year betting on sports is accused of sending hundreds of threatening messages to professional and college athletes, including members of the Tampa Bay Rays.

In some of the messages, Benjamin Tucker Patz used racial slurs and threatened to break into the athletes’ homes and behead them and their families, according to a criminal complaint.

Patz, 23, who goes by the name “Parlay Patz,” now faces federal charges of transmitting threats in interstate and foreign commerce.

The FBI investigated the threats, which were sent throughout 2019 in direct messages over Facebook and Instagram. The complaint says he used anonymous accounts.

Four Tampa Bay Rays players received Instagram messages on July 20, the day the team lost a home game to the Chicago White Sox. The four are identified in the complaint only by the initials E.P., A.K., T.P. and C.R.

“I will sever your neck open you pathetic (expletive)," read one message directed to E.P.

“Unfortunately 0-5 against the Chicago White Sox isn’t going to cut it,” read a message to T.P. “Because of your sins, I will have to behead you and your family.”

Chaz Roe confirmed Thursday that he was one of the players, but declined to comment because the case is ongoing. Adam Kolarek and Emilio Pagan, who are no longer with the team, were two of the others. Tommy Pham, as the only player with the initials TP on the team last year, told the Tampa Bay Times via text Wednesday night that he didn’t recall any specific threats and wasn’t involved in an ongoing investigation.

"I don’t know who this guy is ... I don’t remember anyone threatening me,'' Pham said. "Not me. Crazy.''

A White Sox player, identified in the complaint as A.C., also received a message, which threatened beheading and referred to him with an ethnic slur.

FBI agents traced the Instagram account that sent the messages to an internet protocol address in Sacramento, Calif. They further linked the address to an email account belonging to Patz, who previously lived in Napa, Calif., according to the complaint.

The days that followed saw similar threats directed to players on the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and Kansas City Royals. Other threats targeted players for the Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres, Oakland Athletics, Toronto Blue Jays, New England Patriots and numerous other professional and college athletes.

A review of Patz’ email and Instagram accounts showed more than 300 other accounts had been targeted with threatening and explicit messages, according to the complaint. Nearly all of those messages went to professional athletes or their family members.

The threats often corresponded with Patz’ gambling activity, according to the complaint. The complaint includes references to various news articles which describe Patz as a gambler who made more than $1 million betting on sports. Some of the articles state that he attended Columbia University Business School and American University in Paris.

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The Tampa Bay Rays issued this statement in regards to the threats made against its players:

“The safety of our players and staff is paramount and all threats are taken seriously. During the 2019 season, a Rays player notified club officials of threats he received on social media. The Rays brought the issue to the Clearwater resident office of the FBI, and their agents initiated an investigation that subsequently identified three additional Rays players who had been threatened. The Rays and the players involved are cooperating with the FBI as the legal process continues.”

Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.