Former Fed Prosecutor: Vanek "not your average witness"

Updated: 07/23/2014 5:30 PM
Created: 07/23/2014 4:18 PM WHEC.com
By: Berkeley Brean

News10NBC is tracking new information in the local online sports gambling investigation with ties to former Buffalo Sabres star Thomas Vanek. A former federal prosecutor says he is not your average witness. 

Ever since we broke the story on Monday, when law enforcement sources said Vanek is "connected" to an ongoing illegal online sports gambling investigation, the National Hockey League has been investigating the connection. 

Below: Read how gambling on hockey is prohibited

Thomas Vanek is not facing any charges here. His agent says he has done nothing wrong, he is simply a witness in the case. So we talked via Skype with a former federal prosecutor who has handled gambling cases like this before. 

Brean: What do you think Thomas Vanek's role in this gambling investigation is?

David Weinstein, former federal prosecutor: Thomas is going to come in as a bettor, someone who has done business with the organization. Someone who has placed bets, who has incurred losses, who has received profits. 

Weinstein is a former federal prosecutor in Miami, but he grew up in Buffalo and is still a Buffalo Sabres fan. He has paid close attention to this case, including our exclusive video with Vanek leaving the federal court building this week. 

Brean: What do you think it means to have someone of Thomas Vanek's fame and stature involved in this investigation?

Weinstein: I think that it adds credibility to the investigation. It makes people stand up from strictly the view point of a juror who's paying attention in this case, if ultimately it goes to a jury trial, it gives them someone to identify with.

Three men, including Paul Borrelli and Joseph Ruff, are indicted in the case. In a statement, Vanek said he is cooperating with federal investigators and not the subject of any investigation. Weinstein says he is not your average witness. 

Weinstein: This is someone who is a professional athlete, who decided to bring his business to this particular organization.

We were monitoring the federal court building Wednesday. We did not see anyone connected to the case, including other hockey players, walk in. 

On Tuesday, we spoke with attorney Matthew Parrinello who is defending Joseph Ruff in this case. We asked Parrinello if there is any evidence that Thomas Vanek bet on hockey. 

Brean: Based on your knowledge of the case, was there any betting on hockey? 

Matthew Parrinello, defense attorney: From my knowledge, there was not any betting on hockey.

Brean: Other professional sports? 

Parrinello: Yes. 

Brean: But none on hockey.

Parrinello: Correct.

News10NBC looked through the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and its players. On page 342, under the heading "Form of Standard Club Rules" it says, "Gambling on any NHL Game is prohibited." The contract does not prohibit gambling on any other sports. 

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