Wild forward Vanek rubbishes claims he owed $10M to New York bookie

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An attorney representing a bookie who took a $230,000 payment from Minnesota Wild forward Thomas Vanek claims the NHL star had gambling debts of $10 million.

Joseph Ruff, of Rochester, New York, pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to charges of extortion conspiracy, illegal gambling and money-laundering conspiracy for his role in a gambling ring that took bets from Vanek when he played for the New York Islanders, FOX News reports.

Ruff's lawyer, Matt Parrinello, claimed Vanek had built up gambling debts of $10 million, a claim that Vanek's agent Stephen Bartlett rubbished, telling ESPN it is "an absolutely fantasy" and a "complete fabrication."

Bartlett told ESPN Vanek's debts were closer to a million dollars, with Vanek adding that he no longer gambles.

USA Today reports that Vanek handed over $230,000 to Ruff, after he was told that Ruff was likely to be hurt if he didn't collect any money from Vanek.

Parrinello said that Vanek's bets were mainly on football and basketball, but never hockey.

"Thomas has admitted in statements that he made a mistake," Brian Bartlett, of agency firm the Sports Consulting Group, told FOX. "It's something he has fixed. He no longer bets on anything, let alone sports, and he's looking to move forward beyond this."

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