NHL star Thomas Vanek’s name has surfaced again in connection with a case involving an alleged illegal sports gambling ring and money laundering in Western New York.
The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported today that a bookmaker pleaded guilty Thursday to laundering a $230,000 US gambling debt, which was paid off with a New York Islanders salary cheque, according to the man’s attorney.
The payment was made at the same Vanek played for the Islanders, the Democrat and Chronicle reported attorney James Wolford as saying, though Wolford would not say whether the cheque came from Vanek.
Wolford also said, according to the Democrat and Chronicle, that the $230,000 payment covered only a portion of a $1 million overall debt owed by the gambler who paid with the Islanders cheque.
Vanek, who currently plays for the Minnesota Wild, isn't facing any charges and was not the target of a police investigation. But he has acknowledged testifying before a grand jury, and he said in a statement in July that he was co-operating with a U.S. federal investigation.
Reports around that time indicated that the investigation involved three men charged with illegal gambling at the Marina Restaurant and Bar in Charlotte, N.Y. The business was raided in June and three men were charged with 23 counts of illegal sports gambling.
Played in Montreal
Vanek’s name appeared in records seized from the alleged bookmakers, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.
Vanek spent time in the Western New York region when he played for the AHL's Rochester Americans and the NHL's Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres traded him last October to the Islanders, who later sent him to the Montreal Canadiens, where he finished the season before signing a three-year, $19.5-million free-agent deal with the Wild on July 1.
On Thursday, Mark Ruff pleaded guilty to illegal gambling and money laundering, and will be sentenced to nine years if his plea deal is approved by the judge at his January sentencing. Ruff admitted helping manage a gambling operation with his brother, Joseph Ruff, and Paul Borrelli, both of whom are awaiting trial.
From January 2012 until the time the men were arrested, authorities allege, $76 million in wagers was handled.