New York poker player Travell Thomas loved playing the casinos and was quite good at the game for a period of time winning two World Series of Poker (WSOP) Circuit rings over the years. The Hendon Mob lists Thomas’s career prize money as a little over $500,000 and his best live cash out at $30,445.
Debt Collection Fraud
However Thomas was living a lavish lifestyle with money that came not from the poker tables but from a business he founded called ‘Four Star Resolution’ which was a debt collection business. According to the authorities, Thomas used the business to run a mega debt collection scam by manipulating the software which caused it to inflate the actual debt of customers who would later be manipulated by Thomas’s staff.
Four Star focused on customers who were in financial difficulties and pressure was imposed on them with false claims that they had breached the law and were in trouble. These unsuspecting customers would pay up and those funds would eventually find their way into Thomas’s wallet and were responsible for him enjoying a lavish lifestyle which included spending large amounts of money at casinos, buying gold, cars, jewelry and enjoying expensive vacations. The authorities allege that his firm had swindled customers out of $31 million over the years.
FTC Crackdown 
Four Star Resolution came under the scanner of the authorities in 2012 but Travell Thomas misled the New York Attorney General’s office with false claims and thereby enabled his firm to operate for an additional three years. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) finally caught on to the debt collection scheme and arrested and charged Thomas who eventually pleaded guilty in November 2016.
Thomas plead guilty to planning to commit wire fraud and committing wire fraud which carried a 15 and ½ year jail term, the forfeiture of $31 million and an additional 3 years of supervised release. The 38 year old poker player told the authorities that he spent very little time in the office as he had a problem with gambling and would spend most of his time and a lot of his money gambling. He stated that there were times, when he would spend days at the casino and would not even change his clothes.
Problem Gambling
Problem gambling has always been one of the biggest concerns for anti-gambling campaigners as it is an addiction that can be hard to detect from the outside. Problem gamblers often end up spending money that they do not have at the casino tables and often resort to criminal activities in order to keep the money flowing. Most casinos have made provision for problem gamblers and offer them a number of options that include self exclusion lists, problem gambling counseling and rehabilitation centers where they can be treated.
The Attorney General stated that Thomas was fuelled by greed as he paid his employees basic wages and took most of the profits to fund his lifestyle. He trained his employees to juice the accounts of financially stressed people who would then be conned into thinking that they could be prosecuted by the feds for crimes they did not commit and by manipulating them would get them to pay Four Star Resolution. Joon H. Kim, the acting US Attorney stated that this was the biggest debt collection scheme to have been prosecuted till date and called Thomas the mastermind behind the scheme which is alleged to have run from 2010 to 2015.
Prison Time
However US District Judge Katherine Polk Failla decided to extend some leniency to Thomas during his sentencing and lowered his jail term to just 8 and ½ years which begins in September this year. The judge hoped that the ruling would send a message to gamblers who were resorting or thinking to resort to criminal activities to fund their gambling addictions.
The authorities in America, Macau and other parts of the world continue to monitor the casino industry carefully and focus especially on VIP gamblers who are known for spending large sums of money at the casinos. These VIP gamblers are often suspected of having ties to the underworld, money laundering or short changing the authorities on business taxes. Travell Thomas’s conviction will encourage the authorities to continue their close scrutiny of the casino industry.

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