Hustlers Get Hustled – HCL Stars Ben and Wesley Fall Victim to Professional Con Artist

hcl ben wesley conned

6 minutes

Last Updated: October 15, 2023

The world of poker attracts some shady guys every now and then, and we have seen quite a few of them try to get away with a scam of some sort over the years.

Most scams in poker revolve around stakes for poker tournaments or games in which the player doesn’t honor their end of the deal. But this time around, a much more sinister plot was uncovered by two regulars on the popular Hustler Casino Live show.

The story involves Benjamin “Blank Check Ben” Lee, and Wesley Fei, two of the players who have generated some of the hottest action on the show over the last 12 months.

Most recently, both players have used their social media channels to talk about their absence from the show and their involvement in a situation that had them both being extorted by a professional con-man.

Background on Ben and Wesley

Wesley and Ben have been two of the most popular players on HCL, much thanks to their wild playing style and ability to bring action to any game.

The successful venture capitalist has been a bit of a polarizing figure though, as there has been quite a bit of talk about his influence on HCL lineups and his like and dislike for particular players.

Wesley seemed to be on his list of dislikes, and although the particular reasons for their animosity were never fully disclosed, it has been clear that Ben is not Wesley’s biggest fan for a while.

It was exactly this animosity that the fraudster played on in trying to extort money from both Ben and Wesley, presenting a series of fabricated claims that both would find somewhat likely to believe.

In the end, it would seem that only Ben actually gave in, sending £30,000 to the scam artist via a crypto transfer to a friend in London, while Wesley reportedly didn’t send any money.

This all happened before the two players finally sat down for a meeting, put together by HCL co-owner Ryan Feldmen, in which they compared notes that realized they were both being played.

Here is how it happened.

How It All Went Down

In June 2023, Blank Check Ben was contacted by an anonymous individual who claimed he was a victim of a cryptocurrency fraud orchestrated by none other but Wesley Fei, Ben’s HCL nemesis.

The man claimed he was defrauded out of $250,000, his entire life’s savings, and that he had evidence of this, which he wanted to get out there for the world to see.

He also claimed that Wesley had sent gangsters into his home, to burglarize the place and threaten him, while also destroying any evidence against him.

Immediately, the man asked for some funds to fuel the supposed campaign to show Wesley for the fraudster he was, and claimed that he and his friend had spent tens of thousands on private investigators to that point.

Ben refused to help with money at first, but was further distressed when after some time the man came back and claimed that Wesley had gotten wind of the campaign against him, and that he believed Ben to be behind it.

Concerned for his own safety, Ben upped the security at his home, and started contemplating what the fraudster was pitching.

At the same time, Wesley had allegedly offered $35,000 to the man to provide evidence that Ben was indeed behind the smear campaign.

Money Goes Out

After all this, Ben decided he would give it a shot and fund the project. He initially sent a $2,500 WISE transfer to the man, now discovering his name was Russell Thamer, based in London.

After receiving this transfer, the man drafted a document with all the evidence he allegedly had, and after some proofreading from Ben, it all went online on a dedicated Blog and a Reddit post.

Shortly after, Thamer claimed that he could get his hands on evidence that Wesley committed immigration fraud to get his green card, and that he entered the US through false pretenses.

To get this evidence, the man allegedly needed to pay the source £80,000, which Ben rejected. After Russell “negotiated” the price down to £45,000, Ben still said no.

Thamer got more aggressive after this, informing Ben that he had received a threatening phone call from a man with a Chinese accent, who threatened both him and Ben.

Playing to Ben’s emotions worked, as he eventually decided to send £30,000 to Thamer through a friend in London, sending three crypto transfers to the man, who eventually delivered the cash to Thamer.

It was a few days later, when no documents came and communication subsided, that Ben realized he was scammed, and did his best to rectify the situation.

Ben reached out to Ryan Feldman, who spoke to Wesley and set up a meeting between the two players who had not seen each other in months.

Ben and Wesley Compare Notes

When the meeting between Ben and Wesley finally happened, it took not more than minutes for the two to compare the text messages and audio recordings they had been sent by Thamer, and to realize they had both been scammed.

The man played them off each other, claiming whatever each of them needed to hear, and looking for angles to get them to pay him money for just about anything.

Both players have since gone to social media to apologize to the other and have disclosed the story in full, but the scammer is now in the wind with Ben’s money, and seems to have won the first round of this match.

Who Is Russell Thamer?

After realizing he had been scammed, Ben went to work and started collecting any information he could about Russell Thamer, the man who defrauded him.

According to his posts, Thamer used to go under the name Wasil Thamer until 2020, when he legally changed his first name to Russell, and changed his appearances quite a bit.

Thamer seems to reside in the Greater London area, but the only address Ben could find on him was not his actual place of residence, according to the high stakes player.

Ben also found out that Thamer used to play some low stakes online poker over the years, and has posted no significant results, but contrary to his claims that he had no ties to poker, he was at least familiar with the game.

As Wesley and Ben continue to search for Russell (or Wasil), the case seems to be more or less closed for the time being, and serves as cautionary tale for anyone in a similar situation.

Nevertheless, some good seems to have come from the whole story, as the two players have reportedly buried the hatched and are now on friendly terms, which is certainly a silver lining in the whole story.

And while £30,000 won’t break Blank Check Ben’s bankroll, it is a matter of principle that will see the venture capitalist continue to hunt after Thamer for some time to come.

If any further developments on the story come up, we will make sure to let you know, but in the meantime we look forward to seeing both Ben and Wesley return to high stakes games and make some appearances on HCL shows in the weeks to come.

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