A former Jacksonville Jaguars financial manager accused of stealing more than $22 million from the franchise has a gambling addiction and plans to plead guilty to resolve federal charges against him, his attorney said Thursday.
Attorney Alex King of First Coast Criminal Defense in Jacksonville released a statement on behalf of his client, Amit Patel, and said “approximately 99% of the funds misappropriated” from the team's virtual credit card program were gambled away.
The NFL met with Patel in February as part of an investigation into his gambling, most of which took place on two prominent websites. The Jaguars subsequently suspended and later fired Patel, King said.
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“Mr. Patel suffers from a serious gambling addiction, and in the spring of this year, checked himself into extensive, inpatient rehabilitation to address his addiction,” King said. "Mr. Patel’s serious gambling addiction does not excuse his actions, which he takes full responsibility for.
“Although incomprehensible to most, a gambling addition is similar to substance abuse, such that the disorder can stimulate the brain’s dopamine response much like drugs or alcohol do. It provides an uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on one’s life, and creates a willingness to risk more and more, despite the impact it has.”
Patel kept gambling in hopes of winning back his money and repaying the misappropriated funds, his attorney said.
Patel was accused of using the money to buy two vehicles, a condominium in nearby Ponte Vedra Beach, a designer watch for $95,000 and cryptocurrency — and to place more bets, according to the court filing.
He also allegedly used the money to buy sports memorabilia, a country club membership, spa treatments and tickets to sporting events and concerts. He also chartered private jets for himself and friends and lodged a retainer with a criminal defense law firm, according to the filing.
“While it has been widely reported that Mr. Patel used the funds to live an extravagant lifestyle, his modest residence was paid for mostly with family money and other money earned,” King said. “Mr. Patel did not use the Jaguars’ VCC to fund his lifestyle, but in a horribly misguided effort to pay back previous gambling losses that utilized the Jaguars’ VCC program.”
Patel, who worked for the Jaguars for five years starting in 2018, is charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of illegal monetary transaction in documents filed in U.S. District Court. If convicted, he may be required to forfeit property and assets purchased or funded with the proceeds, the filing states.
“Mr. Patel is deeply remorseful and apologizes for his conduct,” King said. “He loved working for the Jacksonville Jaguars and regrets his actions which have resulted in him both losing his dream job and damaging the organization. Mr. Patel remains in treatment and recovery for his gambling addiction and intends to seek ongoing treatment for the foreseeable future.”