Gambling debt enforcer for former USC athlete sentenced to prison

SAN DIEGO — An enforcer who beat up a man with gambling debts in front of his son was sentenced in San Diego to two years in federal prison for his involvement in a gambling and drug-trafficking ring run by a former USC football player.

Jack Rissell, 51, pleaded guilty to extortion last December, admitting in a plea agreement that he assaulted his victim on the orders of Owen Hanson, a walk-on tight end on the Trojans’ national championship-winning 2004 football team.

According to a plea agreement, Hanson hired Rissell to travel from California to Minnesota to collect a gambling debt, and the agreement included a bonus — known as a “contact fee” — for assaulting the victim. Once Rissell found the victim at his Minneapolis apartment, he struck the man in the face in front of his son while demanding he repay the gambling debts he owed Hanson’s organization.

After the assault, Rissell emailed Hanson to tell him the man “went down like a bag of potatoes,”

U.S. District Judge William Q. Hayes called Rissell’s involvement with Hanson’s organization “egregious conduct” that left the victim in terror and described the contact fee as “cold blooded,” prosecutors said.

Rissell is the second enforcer in Hanson’s organization to be sentenced in the last week in U.S. District Court in San Diego. On July 24, Los Angeles- based private investigator Daniel Portley-Hanks, 71, was sentenced to 16 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to extortion.

Like Rissell, Hanson paid Portley-Hanks to drive to another state to intimidate someone who owed gambling debts. Portley-Hanks pleaded guilty to going to Pennsylvania, where he photographed his victim’s family burial plot, then altered the photos to insinuate the debtor would soon be buried in the cemetery if he didn’t pay up.

In total, 21 of 22 defendants charged in relation to Hanson’s enterprise have pleaded guilty. The only holdout is Khalid Petras, who’s set to go on trial Aug. 29 on charges of money laundering and running an illegal gambling business.

Hanson, 34, pleaded guilty in January to racketeering and drug- trafficking conspiracy charges. He faces at least 20 years in prison when he is sentenced.

The case arose out of a joint investigation by the FBI and IRS in San Diego and the New South Wales (Australia) Police Force in conjunction with the New South Wales Crime Commission. Hanson was initially indicted and arrested on Sept. 9, 2015, after allegedly arranging the delivery of five kilograms each of cocaine and methamphetamine.