Poker Pro Ali Fazeli Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud in Sports Ticket Resale Scam

Poker pro Ali Fazeli pleaded guilty to wire fraud last month, admitting to his role at a sports ticket resale scam that counted famous professional players like Erik Seidel and John Juanda among its victims.

Ali Fazeli wire fraud

NFL Senior Counsel of Legal Affairs Michael Buchwald shows off the anti-counterfeiting features of tickets to the 2017 Super Bowl at a press conference before the game. (Image: David J. Phillip/STF)

According to court records, Fazeli entered into a plea agreement filed in a California federal court .

Fazeli Admits Transferring Funds to Aria

Fazeli was facing two felony counts of wire fraud after being accused of scamming investors out of $6.2 million. Fazeli has claimed he would use that money to buy and sell tickets to high value sporting events like the Super Bowl and World Cup, turning a profit in the process.

But while the money was wired to Fazeli’s ticket broker, Summit Entertainment Group, most of those funds were not used to speculate on tickets. Instead, Fazeli was fortunate to have used the money to gamble at Las Vegas casinos and to pay off gambling debts.

Fazeli would be detained in February after an FBI investigation, and was indicted in March.

In the plea agreement, Fazeli allegedly admitted to moving approximately $1.8 million to the Aria, where he used at least some of those funds to buy into high roller poker tournaments in 2016. Fazeli was a regular at the Aria’s high roller series during 2016, cashing at least 10 times in events with buy-ins of at least $25,000 during that year. Those wins make up the majority of his $2.2 million in lifetime tournament earnings.

Sentence TBD

Fazeli could face a prison sentence of up to 20 years, even though it is possible he could end up serving less time under the conditions of his plea deal. Fazeli will also be asked to repay his victims in full.

The criminal charges are just the start of the legal problems facing Fazeli associated with his ticket resale strategy. Seidel, Juanda, and fellow poker pro Zachary Clark filed a lawsuit against Fazeli in April, as the trio said they had invested $1.3 million into Summit Entertainment.

Outside of the poker world, prominent Republican donor Mel Sembler also claims that he invested $5 million into Fazeli’s operation in March 2015. While the investment initially seemed to be paying off, Sembler never received payments and eventually filed a lawsuit seeking to reclaim his money.

Fazeli is also facing a lawsuit in the Aria. According to the casino, it extended credit to Fazeli on 34 separate occasions, with the total quantity of the loans increasing to $2.1 million by January 2017. While Fazeli has paid $1 million of that amount, that still leaves another $1.1 million owed to the hotel.

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