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California Man Admits He Threatened Baseball Players

A California man with a history of sports gambling has pleaded guilty to sending threatening messages on Instagram to several athletes, including one in which he told a baseball player, “I will kill your entire family,” federal officials announced on Wednesday.

The man, Benjamin Tucker Patz, 24, of Napa, Calif., faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines, according to prosecutors in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida. A sentencing date has not been set.

On July 20, 2019, the Tampa Bay Rays lost a home game to the Chicago White Sox in St. Petersburg. That evening — before the game had finished — Mr. Patz sent threats via Instagram to four players on the Rays and one on the White Sox, according to the plea agreement.

Mr. Patz wrote to one Rays player, described in the complaint only as “E.P.”: “I will enter your home while you sleep” and “sever your neck open.” He also wrote that “Everyone you love will soon cease” and “I will cut up your family” and “Dismember” them, according to the plea agreement.

If the court accepts the plea agreement, federal prosecutors said, they will not seek to charge Mr. Patz with other crimes.

In a 2020 criminal complaint, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation said that Mr. Patz had sent threatening and explicit messages via Instagram to at least 300 other accounts belonging to professional or collegiate athletes, their family members or significant others.

Mr. Patz had spoken openly about earning a lot of money from betting on sporting events, officials said. One website focused on sports betting described Mr. Patz as a millionaire, thanks in part to “his hot streak.”

Mr. Patz also let some athletes know directly that their performances affected him financially, officials said. In December 2019, Mr. Patz contacted a basketball player at the University of Arizona over Instagram, according to the complaint.

“Your worthlessness costed me over 100,000$ tonight!” Mr. Patz wrote, it said. After the player replied by saying, “Gambling is a dangerous habit,” Mr. Patz wrote, “I’m doing just fine, over one million this month!”

A lawyer for Mr. Patz did not return voice mail and email messages on Wednesday night.

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