TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A sports gambler faces up to five years in federal prison for threatening social media messages sent to players with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Benjamin Tucker Patz, 24, of Napa, California, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Tampa federal court to transmitting threats in interstate or foreign commerce, according to court records. No sentencing date was immediately set.
Patz was initially charged last year. He had made numerous violent threats in 2019 against athletes and their family members through anonymous Instagram accounts, according to a criminal complaint. In many messages, Patz threatened to enter the athletes’ homes and behead them or their family members, the FBI said. Some of Patz’s threats also contained derogatory terms and racial slurs, investigators said.
The Tampa Bay Rays lost a home baseball game in July 2019 to the Chicago White Sox. An account linked to Patz later sent threatening Instagram messages to four players for the Rays and one player for the White Sox, according to authorities. None of the players were identified by name, only initials.
“Your family will be beheaded,” said one of the messages, quoted in the criminal complaint.
Patz, who resides in New York and California, goes by the moniker “Parlay Patz.” FBI investigators said they found online articles that claimed he had won more than $1 million shortly before his arrest by wagering on sports events.
Though Wednesday's guilty plea relates specifically to the Rays threats, investigators said Patz had been sending violent messages to athletes for about a year before his arrest. After losing $10,000 by betting on the Los Angeles Rams to win the 2019 Super Bowl, Patz sent messages to two players on the game's winning team, the New England Patriots, claiming that he would rape and murder their families, officials said.
The complaint also listed threats against players for the Atlanta Braves, the San Diego Padres, the Oakland Athletics, the Cleveland Indians, the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals. One of Patz's accounts also threatened a player for the Swedish women's soccer team after they beat Germany in the Women's World Cup quarterfinal in June 2019, instigators said.