Jacksonville Jaguars’ Fumbled Due Diligence

Gambling-addicted finance manager stole (and lost) $22 million during a 4-year period

Amit Patel has a gambling addiction. A “serious gambling addiction,” according to his attorney. But nonetheless, he was hired by the Jacksonville Jaguars. During his four years of employment, from September 2019 until he was fired in February 2023, Patel stole over $22 million from the NFL team. The Jaguars first became aware of their finance manager’s purported sticky fingers when online gambling site FanDuel warned them in January 2023.

Amit Patel plead guilty in the Jacksonville U.S. District Court to one count of wire fraud and one count of illegal monetary transaction. He was sentenced to 6.5 years for stealing and ordered to pay full restitution—something he most likely will not be able to do. Why would the Jaguars hire someone with a severe gambling addiction? And why put them in a finance position? And how was Patel able to succeed in his malfeasance and not be caught for so long?

While the Jacksonville Jaguars might be out over $22 million, the expensive lessons they learned are applicable to all businesses. The most important of which is the need for robust due diligence investigations, especially for people in key roles and senior financial positions.

What Patel Did

Amit Patel filled a critical position in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ finance department. He oversaw department budgets, prepared the team’s monthly financial statements, and, as of October 2019, was the only person administrating the team’s virtual credit card (VCC) program when his supervisor changed positions and was not replaced. Two other members of the finance department also left around this time, according to a report by News4Jax. According to the news outlet, Patel’s submitted sheets were checked by an employee from accounting, but when this employee left, this was no longer the case. With a lack of oversight, Patel created files with “multiple false and fraudulent entries” and sent them off to accounting.

How Did the Jaguars’ Discover Patel’s Malfeasance

The Jaguars were clued in about Amit Patel’s possible embezzling when one of the sites he gambled on, FanDuel, gave them a heads up.

Apparently, no one in the company, over the four-year period, noted anything going on. Was no one in the company reviewing credit card expenditures for unusual trends? Were no internal or external audits taking place? Were no purchase orders used for expenditures over a certain amount? Was anyone else reviewing the monthly statements?

In November 2022, Patel requested a credit limit increase from the bank from $4.75 million to $7.25 million to avoid exceeding the Jaguars’ VCC credit limit. This was approved with no one else in the company having to sign off on it or approving the request.

What Patel Spent the Jaguars’ Money On

Amit Patel had a gambling addiction, but was also a poor gambler. According to his attorneys, “approximately 99%” of the misappropriated funds were gambled away—the rest were spent on an extravagant lifestyle.

Amit Patel’s sentencing memo details include: a $265,000 Ponte Vedra Beach condo, private jets, luxury hotels, spa treatments, sports memorabilia, a Tesla Model 3 sedan, and a Nissan pickup truck, along with other sundry items including a $95,000 Patek Philippe watch.

Even after being let go, he continued to spend with no effort to curb spending or pay back any of the embezzled funds, including enjoying a country club membership obtained from his ill-gotten gains.

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Due Diligence Investigations Before Hiring?

The biggest mistake in this case was that Amit Patel was ever hired for a finance position by the Jaguars. His background came out during the case, revealing multiple red flags that could have, and should have been revealed in the executive background check of a due diligence investigation.

Patel’s gambling addiction went far back to his teen years. According to the defense memorandum, on March 23, 2023, a month after he was fired, Patel was diagnosed by the UF Health Florida Recover Center with the following conditions: severe alcohol use disorder, a gambling disorder, a stimulant and moderate cannabis use disorder.

The same memorandum disclosed that this was not his first act of embezzlement, noting “Mr. Patel voluntarily surrendered information regarding similar misconduct with a prior employer that had previously gone undetected.

This information may not have been discovered by the government without Mr. Patel's acknowledgement." But it should have been detected by his prior employer and his gambling addiction should have been discovered before he was ever hired.

The document later reveals that Patel worked for Deloitte, and used the company's AMEX card to "incur gambling debts" that he paid back before detection with the help of his brother.

Take Aways

Many companies focus on short term profits rather than long term gains in effort to appease shareholders and look good in the market. These efforts are designed to reduce the upfront costs companies use to reduce headcount, offshore, and skimp on anything that is not seen as directly producing revenue, including very basic background checks that will not reveal hidden issues such as gambling and other addictions. These types of cuts often cost the company more in the long term.  

The Jacksonville Jaguars lost over $22 million that they will probably never recover by allowing a bad actor to join their team. They also had to pay more money to set things straight by hiring outside legal, accounting and PR firms to deal with the fallout. In a statement the Jaguars noted:

“The team engaged experienced law and accounting firms to conduct a comprehensive independent review, which concluded that no other team employees were involved in or aware of his criminal activity.

With the assistance of external experts, it has extensively reviewed its own policies and procedures, added staff to its finance department, and taken other measures to ensure the integrity of its financial controls.”

One questions the quality, or even existence, of the background checks performed by Amit Patel’s prior employers. The danger is even greater if the company had been hiring an executive or bringing aboard a board member where enhanced due diligence investigations are vital.

Due diligence investigations are designed to detect hidden and undisclosed information that is not readily available in standard background checks. Due diligence investigations evaluate the relationship of executives to foreign officials, criminal history, financial and legal issues, civil litigation issues, relationships with other companies and entities, reputation issues, shell company involvement, evidence of fraud, history of various addictions, signs of money laundering, financial impropriety, conflicts of interest, drug, alcohol and human trafficking, anti-competitive behaviors. and numerous other serious issues. Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) investigations are an important source of information in addition to publicly available records.

Due diligence investigations and executive background checks are also only as good as the skill of the company conducting them. It may be easy for a company to pick a cheaper investigative firm and choosing to believe the quality of its due diligence investigation will be “good enough,” but as can be seen with Amit Patel and the Jaguars’ due diligence fumble, you get what you pay for.


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