(Bloomberg) -- A former Jacksonville Jaguars executive charged with stealing more than $22 million from the National Football League team said he plans to plead guilty to fraud.
Prosecutors accused Amit Patel, the team’s former manager of financial planning and analysis, of stealing the money to fund a luxury lifestyle that included private jet travel and a $95,000 Patek Philippe Nautilus watch. Patel’s lawyer, Alex King, said in a statement Thursday that his client “takes full responsibility for his actions” but said an out-of-control addiction to online sports betting was the main motive for the embezzlement.
“Approximately 99% of the funds” taken from the Jaguars was spent betting on the FanDuel and DraftKings sites or in a “horribly misguided effort” to make good his losses and repay the team, King said.
According to charges filed Tuesday in federal court in Jacksonville, Florida, Patel processed fraudulent credit card transactions from September 2019 until he was fired in February. He’s charged with wire fraud and engaging in an illegal financial transaction. King said Patel would plead guilty at a hearing to be set sometime “in the coming days.”
Patel took advantage of his job to “covertly and intentionally commit significant fraudulent financial activity at the team’s expense for personal benefit,” the Jaguars said in a statement.
The Jaguars said the team has cooperated with investigators and hired accountants and law firms to review the transactions. No other employees were aware of the fraud and Patel had no access to confidential football strategy or other information. King said Patel has cooperated with the Jaguars, the FBI and federal prosecutors and is in treatment for gambling addiction.
With eight wins and four losses, the Jaguars currently lead the AFC South division of the NFL.
Virtual Credit Card
Prosecutors claim Patel oversaw the team’s virtual credit card program, which allowed some employees to charge business expenses without a physical credit card. Each month it was Patel’s job to create a file accounting for the charges from the past month. He did so with fraudulent entries, inventing phony transactions, moving up legitimate charges from future months and inflating some charges, including for catering, airfare and hotels, according to the government.
Prosecutors claim Patel spent the millions he stole from the team on internet gambling, a condominium near Florida’s Ponte Vedra Beach and for private jet travel and luxury accommodation for himself and friends.
He bought a new Tesla Model 3 sedan and a Nissan pickup truck, cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens, sports memorabilia, a country club membership, tickets to sporting events and high-end watches, including the Patek Philippe, prosecutors said.
Patel also allegedly used stolen money to hire a personal trainer and a criminal defense lawyer.
The case is US v. Patel, 23-cr-00166, US District Court, Middle District of Florida (Jacksonville).
(Updates with Patel saying he will plead guilty.)
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