Two Las Vegas men are in serious hot water, as they face federal charges dealing with a sham sports betting business and pyramid scheme that defrauded over 600 investors.
The defendants, John Frank Thomas,75, and Thomas Joseph Becker,72, were arrested on Tuesday by FBI agents in Las Vegas. Both men have used several aliases in an attempt to evade prosecution.
The charges both men are facing includes one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and 13 separate counts of wire fraud. According to the charging documents, Thomas and Becker induced investors to contribute anywhere from $10,000 to $500,000 in sports betting investment funds.
According to the FBI, the amount of money the two defendants took in through the alleged scheme totaled over $30 million. The two alleged fraudsters operated their sports betting business in Las Vegas from 2010 until 2019.
The charging documents claim, the two defendants placed ads in business journals and online looking for ‘sports betting investors.’
Feds Are Looking For More Pyramid Scheme Victims
An investor who claimed to be one of the victims of Thomas and Becker talked to Channel 8 News in Las Vegas, saying “Thomas and Becker seemed extremely professional and on the up and up. They had an office a block away from the strip.”
The Channel 8 source said Thomas and Becker operated under several different names such as Vegas Basketball Club, Einstein Sports Advisory, Quantum Sports Advisory and Wellington Sports Club.
The representation Thomas and Becker made, was they are both ‘ports betting experts,’ and they would use the investors money to make wagers to turn a profit. Agents said, investors were told that defendants were so skilled at sports betting that they could produce 140 to 180% of profits even on a $100 bet.
An agent involved with the case said these types of fraud, where fake statements are sent out to investors to throw them off the track, are common. Investigators claim no bets were ever made, ‘not even one.’
According to the fraudulent statements, investors were under the impression the bottom line of the accounts were multiplying. If someone wanted out of the investor accounts, Thomas and Becker paid them with the investment money from a new victim who opened an account.
Agents said this was run like a garden variety Ponzi scheme, and there was very little difference to the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scam that came to an end in 2008. Thomas and Becker used the money for their own personal use, including buying boats and cars, going on expensive trips, and paying their own mortgages.
Fraudsters Facing 20 Plus Years
U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich, who is in charge of the investigation, said, “Nevada Has earned a world-wide reputation for the gold standard of gambling integrity. Our office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and our gaming industry including the FBI who has been instrumental in this investigation. In the interest of maintaining the integrity of Nevada’s reputation that reflects the efforts of hardworking Nevadans across the state. We will continue to investigating and prosecute all those that violate the law and we will ensure that all compliance issues issues are adhered to.”
The defendants are still behind bars in a federal facility in Nevada. They will be in court in January 2021, for pre-trial motions. The defendants are facing 20 years behind bars and fines in excess of a million dollars.