Man Tried to Extort $3.5 Million From Louisville Athletics in Email Scheme
BY: John “Hennry” Harris
The University of Louisville has the most profitable collegiate basketball program in the country hands down and the football program is enjoying a resurgence that has energized the Derby city. It has also made the University of Louisville Athletics Association a target for a Jackson, Mississippi man with a history of email extortion.
Thomas E. Ray, 35, was arrested in Mississippi by U.S. Marshals on charges of trying to blackmail the University of Louisville Athletics Association out of $3.5 million to keep quiet about a basketball point-shaving scandal.
According to the indictment, Ray, used the alias “Melinda White” when he sent an email on April 23 threatening to damage the athletic program’s reputation by going public with his knowledge of an alleged point-shaving scandal unless he was paid $3.5 million.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said that authorities traced the email to Ray’s Yahoo! account and Internet protocol address.
This was not Ray’s first attempt at email extortion. He was convicted 2005 of two counts of extortion and sentenced to 18 months in prison after getting busted trying to extort Best Buy using a similar strategy. Prosecutors reveal that Ray tried to extort $2.5 million from Best Buy by threatening to expose purported flaws in the companies computer system. In that case federal prosecutors said Ray used the alias “Jamie Weathersby” when he contacted the electronics chain in October 2003.
Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich released a statement and said he contacted Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and the NCAA within minutes of reading the email in April.
“We were confident that there was no truth to the accusations made in the communication,” he said.
Conway said that Ray claimed that the extortion payment would silence a person that was in Ray’s custody with knowledge of the scheme. Investigators could never find or identify the person Ray referred to and there were no names of any basketball players in the email.
Ray is facing up to two years in prison and fines up to $250,000. Ray was released after posting $10,000 and ordered to appear in Louisville District Court.
Notorious B.I.G. said that “Mo Money means Mo Problems”, I guess collegiate athletic programs are no different.
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