A 23-year-old former soccer player for Babson College is facing federal charges after reportedly sending death threats via social media to professional and college athletes in 2017.
Addison Choi of California allegedly sent threats to athletes on sites like Instagram after facing heavy gambling losses. Choi gambled on professional and college sports, losing frequently. After a loss, he would go on Instagram and post death threats to players of teams that he placed bets on.
From July to December of 2017, Choi reportedly posted a minimum of 45 different threats via Instagram. He had multiple threats on several targets and in some cases took the death threats to the player’s family members. Choi was acting out against players associated with teams that he wagered on when he lost the bet.
The threats were specific in nature and often racist. In one instance, Choi stated he would kill a player and their relatives by hanging them from a tree. He often used vile language in his posts.
United States attorney Andrew Lelling said: “There is a difference between free speech—even hate speech—and intentionally putting others in fear of their lives. Mr. Choi crossed that line. Based on today’s charging document, and hiding behind the anonymity of social media, he threatened his victims in graphically violent, often racist terms.
“We take seriously internet-based threats of violence, especially racist ones — they undermine our nation’s hard-won, fundamental values of equality.”
Special agent of the FBI Boston Field Division, Joseph Bonavolonta, stated that Choi was very public with his intimidation and blamed the players for his gambling losses. He said further that the case should serve as a warning that individuals cannot hide behind a keyboard and make violent threats, placing others in fear.
During his time at Babson College, Choi was wagering heavily on several sports. At the age of 21, he racked up debt, borrowing money from family and friends, and gambling even more. Choi reportedly wagered on basketball, football, tennis, baseball, soccer, and hockey.
He was not successful in his efforts and as the losses grew, he began to take out his frustration on the players. When a team or player that he wagered on did not do well during a game, Choi would make a death threat.
Choi created fake Instagram accounts to remain anonymous when making the death threats. When Instagram shut down an account, he would simply open a new one.
Choi now faces 21 to 27 months in prison for his actions. He has agreed to plead guilty to one federal count of transmitting threats in interstate commerce.