Behind California Drug Lord's Downfall: a Beheading Video

Owen Hanson sentenced to 21 years in prison for drug operation
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2017 10:35 AM CST
Behind Drug Lord's Downfall: a Beheading Video
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Images_By_Kenny)

Owen "O-Dog" Hanson played on the same championship-winning USC football team as future NFL stars Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, but he would ultimately take a very different career path. The 35-year-old California man was sentenced to more than 21 years in prison Friday after pleading guilty to racketeering and conspiracy to distribute drugs, reports the Washington Post. His fall from grace is a wild tale: While at USC in 2004, Hanson began selling drugs, including cocaine and steroids, Rolling Stone previously reported. After college, he started working as a bookie in Los Angeles. Years later, his wife would tell a former boyfriend, professional gambler RJ Cipriani, that Hanson wanted to put up millions of dollars to fund his efforts at casinos in Australia, per 9 News. The money was to be returned with a casino check, though Cipriani could keep any winnings.

Authorities say it was a scheme aimed at hiding money from Hanson's illegal dealings in Australia, where he could sell cocaine for ten times as much as in LA. Cipriani claims he figured this all out and was purposefully reckless at the casino tables to get out of the arrangement; he ended up losing $2.5 million. But his escape plan wasn't that easy. Cipriani says Hanson threatened him and his wife, including by sending them a video of two men being beheaded. "If you don't pay us our money, this will happen to you," an attached note read, according to prosecutors. The US gambler eventually went to the FBI and Hanson was arrested in 2015 in a joint operation with Australian police. He pleaded guilty in January, and has now been ordered to forfeit $5 million in assets. More than 20 of Hanson's associates have also been charged with crimes related to gambling and drug trafficking. (Read more racketeering stories.)

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