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Poker Player Accuses US Attorney Preet Bharara Of Criminally Charging Him Because He's Black

Travell Thomas Trying To Depose US Prosecutor

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A professional poker player who was indicted over his debt collection business by the man who went after the world’s largest online poker sites in 2011 has alleged that his ongoing case was racially motivated.

According to the New York Post, poker player Travell Thomas argued in court papers that the office of Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara has only pursued two such debt collection cases criminally, and both were black-owned. Typically, cases involving allegedly abusive debt collection techniques are pursued civilly and taken up with the FTC, Thomas’ team said.

Prosecutors from Bharara’s office reportedly said Thomas’ lawyers failed to back up the claim with evidence that the cases resolved civilly could have been criminal prosecutions instead. They called the allegations “rank speculation.”

Thomas is facing up to 40 years in prison for the $31 million debt collection business. He was charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Bharara said the operation “is believed to be the largest fraudulent debt collection scheme ever to be prosecuted.” Thomas, along with co-defendants, are accused of “falsely threatening arrest and prosecution of countless Americans” thanks to tactics that involved taking “ruthless advantage of the desperate situation in which their victims found themselves, using threats and lies to coerce payment and even trying to collect more money than the victims ever owed.”

The feds said that roughly $750,000 in cash was paid to Thomas, some of which allegedly went toward gambling expenses. The business ran from 2010 to 2015.