Travell Thomas Admits To $31M Debt Collection Scam

Once a familiar face on the tournament poker circuit, Travell Thomas now faces the prospect of spending up to 40 years behind bars after pleading guilty to his involvement in a bogus $31 million debt collection scam that allowed him to pocket $750,000 from his unfortunate victims.
In court, Thomas, 38, admitted that his Buffalo-based debt collection firm violated the law between 2010 and 2015 by inflating his customers debts in a practice known as “juicing.” Thomas also admitted to misrepresenting his company as being associated with law enforcement agencies in order to threaten his numerous victims with arrest and criminal charges if they failed to pay up. Commenting on the case, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, stated:
“As he admitted today, Travell Thomas ran a massive, fraudulent debt collection scheme through which he and his cohorts stole over $31 million from his vulnerable victims. Thomas instructed his debt collectors to threaten, intimidate, and lie to their victims by overstating their debts and making false claims about what would happen to if they didn’t pay up.”
Initially, the poker player maintained his innocence of the crimes, even stating his belief that the charges levelled against him may have been racially motivated on account of the fact that he was a black male business owner. On November 1st, however, a tearful Thomas broke down in court and eventually admitted to carrying out his crimes under his “own free will”.
Thomas also said that he used the money to buy high-end clothing, jewelry, as well as for funding his poker lifestyle, and elaborating further the office of the lead prosecutor, Preet Bharara, said that “tens of thousands of dollars were used to pay for Thomas’s gambling expenses, tickets for professional sports games, Thomas’s wedding reception, and jewelry, among other expenses.” Amongst the major tournaments he entered were WPT and WSOP events, and at the pinnacle of Thomas’ career he won two WSOP Circuit rings, including in 2013 taking down the $365 buy-in WSOPC Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for $30,371.

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