Ex-Jags employee in theft case was high-stakes daily fantasy player

ByDAVID PURDUM
December 13, 2023, 1:29 PM

Amit Patel, the former Jacksonville Jaguars employee accused of defrauding the franchise of $22.2 million, was a high-volume, high-stakes daily fantasy sports player known for racking up big losses, according to online records of his account and multiple sources familiar with his play.

Federal authorities allege Patel, 31, manipulated the Jaguars' virtual credit card program (VCC) and used the proceeds to fund a luxury lifestyle between 2019 and February 2023, when the Jaguars terminated him. During that time, Patel was also playing daily fantasy sports (DFS) under the username "ParlayPicker" on FanDuel and DraftKings, multiple sources with direct knowledge of his account told ESPN.

Rotogrinders, a popular daily fantasy sports and betting site that tracks individual players' results, shows ParlayPicker put nearly $500,000 into fantasy tournaments on the NFL, Major League Baseball, PGA Tour and UFC since 2017. He often entered dozens of lineups into fantasy tournaments with large prize pools, the online records show. But DFS players familiar with the ParlayPicker account believe his biggest losses came from the high-stakes three-man contests they say he regularly entered. The contests were against elite competition and had buy-ins upward of $24,000. Rotogrinders does not track such contests, and the results and buy-in figures would not be included in its online records.

Patel's attorney, Alex King, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. He said in a statement last week that his client suffers from a gambling addiction that fueled the alleged scheme.

"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," King said.

King said in the statement that "approximately 99% of the funds misappropriated from the Jaguars' VCC were gambling losses, almost all of which occurred" on FanDuel and DraftKings. King told The Athletic that Patel "bet on football" and daily fantasy sports. Details of Patel's betting outside of his daily fantasy play are unknown.

Drew Crawford, an avid DFS player, noticed the emergence of ParlayPicker in recent years. ParlayPicker's first play recorded on Rotogrinders was in 2017, and the records show his total stakes risked on fantasy tournaments peaked in 2021 and 2022. 

"He came out of nowhere," Crawford told ESPN. "Usually in our circle of DFS guys, we kind of know the identities of the guys who were playing at extreme volume. They've been around for a while. But with this guy, I remember having side conversations with some of my friends, who were like, 'Who is this guy? And what is he doing?'"

Eventually, ParlayPicker developed a reputation for loose play and rookie mistakes. Crawford remembered ParlayPicker submitting rosters that included players who weren't in the starting lineup.

Matt Smith, a well-known daily fantasy pro, told ESPN that ParlayPicker would "occasionally not even submit a lineup, despite it being a $3,000 buy-in."

"My friend and I texted back and forth about how rich this guy must be," Smith added.

As ParlayPicker's play escalated and word of his missteps spread in the DFS community, players made a point of seeking out contests against him, according to multiple daily fantasy sources. One veteran DFS player, who communicated with ESPN on condition of anonymity, said they believe ParlayPicker is "the biggest loser ever on FanDuel."

"He was legendarily bad," the person added.

DraftKings and FanDuel declined to comment.

Patel is scheduled to appear in federal court Thursday in Jacksonville, where he's expected to plead guilty to charges of wire fraud and illegal monetary transaction. In his statement last week, King said that Patel is "deeply remorseful" and is in treatment for his gambling addiction.

The last tournament ParlayPicker entered that was tracked by Rotogrinders was DraftKings' world golf championship on July 6 -- five months after the Jaguars fired him. The buy-in was $29,000. ParlayPicker finished tied for 129th out of 150 finalists.

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