Over the last year, scores of poker fans have enjoyed watching Ben “BlankCheckBen” Lee and Wesley “Westside” Fei battle for six-figure pots on the enormously popular poker stream, Hustler Casino Live (HCL). The huge pots won and lost between the successful venture capitalist (Lee) and the cryptocurrency influencer (Fei) seemed very competitive but friendly. For the most part, it was entertaining to see their chip stacks rise or crumble with the turn of a card as both players journeyed poker’s perilous variance in stride. But there was much more to the story. Behind the veneer of politeness and poker rivalry, there was a darker and bitter side to their relationship that had been brewing since HCL’s Million Dollar Game over Memorial Day weekend. The skirmishes between the two HCL rivals extended far beyond the felt this past summer and threatened to disrupt their personal lives irreparably. As WSOP events kicked off in June, Lee was contacted on social media by an anonymous person who claimed a fraudulent crypto project led by Wesley Fei had scammed him out of $250,000. The anonymous author of the social media note said he needed help to expose Fei and bring him to justice. The million-dollar question: Would Lee assist in this matter? This began what turned out to be an emotionally disturbing and mentally exhausting roller coaster ride for both players, more intense for Lee than for Fei. The dark story is no fairytale, but it does end with an amicable resolution between Lee and Fei that would ultimately surprise both men. NOTE: A different reporter for PokerOrg was contacted by the alleged scammer in September with information regarding Wesley Fei’s alleged crypto rug pull (a scam where investors are lured in before the scammer disappears with the funds). PokerOrg looked into it and determined that the information had no validity. The two HCL players have been brought together by the alleged scam Below is a timeline of the events as they occurred, according to Lee and Fei, followed by an uncut video interview, and an in-depth but abridged Q&A. Timeline of key events 5/30/2023 • On the final day of the Million Dollar Game, Fei vocally criticizes Lee on the HCL livestream. Ben Lee and Wesley Fei are now not on speaking terms. 6/1/2023 • The alleged scammer contacts Ben Lee on Instagram and contends that Wesley Fei has scammed him out of $250,000 in a fraudulent crypto project. • The alleged scammer claims Wesley has hired thugs who broke into his home and stole hard drives and electronics. • The alleged scammer reveals he wants to expose Fei publicly and asks for assistance from Lee in the form of “funding.” • Lee is outraged that Fei has allegedly scammed innocent victims for millions and also resorted to violence. He sympathizes with the alleged victim but does not send any money. 8/22/2023 • The alleged scammer contacts Lee again to say that he has incurred £40,000 to £50,000 in expenses to investigate Fei and offered falsified official documents as proof. • The alleged scammer proposes that Lee should send him $2,500 as a “show of good faith”. 8/24/2023 • The alleged scammer tells Lee that Fei has been in touch with him and is aware of the “project”. • The alleged scammer says Fei has offered $35,000 to expose Lee as the mastermind of the plot to destroy Fei’s reputation. He claims that he would prefer not to do business with Fei, but that it’s a substantial sum for someone who has been financially ruined, and requests further commitment by Lee. • On the same day, the alleged scammer contacts Fei. He says Fei has an enemy who is plotting to destroy his reputation and asks for $35,000 from Fei in exchange for proof of the enemy’s identity. 8/30/2023 • Lee sends the alleged scammer $2,500 to fund a website to reveal Wesley’s fraudulent activities. 9/3/2023 • Wesley posts on X that a scammer is blackmailing him and that he suspects a player at HCL is involved. 9/4/2023 • The “Uncovering Wesley” website goes live. The alleged scammer also posts on Reddit. The post gets 200,000 views within 24 hours. 9/6/2023 • The alleged scammer tells Lee that he is being pursued by thugs and that his life is at risk. He says the only way to stop Fei is to purchase evidence that Fei has committed immigration fraud. • Lee arranges three separate cash payments totaling £30,000 within 24 hours to be dropped off with the alleged scammer’s liaison in London. 9/8/2023 • The alleged scammer produces no immigration fraud documents. Lee realizes he has been scammed for £30,000. • Lee and Fei agree to meet with HCL co-owner Ryan Feldman as a mediator to discuss the whole ordeal and compare notes. • Lee and Fei team up to trap the alleged scammer. 10/10/2023 • Wesley and Ben share the blog post from Ben explaining everything from their contact with the alleged scammer: www.scamclarification.com. • Wesley posts picture of alleged scammer, he believes to be Russell Thamer, who was under arrest for a drug bust in Colombia Airport. • Wesley posts that the alleged scammer is still blackmailing Ben. • Ben apologises on X for his part in the alleged scammers plan to extort and arrest Wesley. • Ben posts details about threats from the alleged scammer and why he has not appeared on HCL. Full, uncut video interview Abridged Q&A with Ben Lee and Wesley Fei The following is an edited synopsis of the full video interview above. Craig Tapscott: Both of you have been through quite the ordeal the last few months. Ben, let’s start from the beginning. Ben Lee: This was at the beginning of June. This anonymous person contacted me and told me that he had been scammed out of his life savings of $250,000 by Wesley Fei. You had to be a bit taken aback by this. BL: Of course. But I was skeptical. I asked him if he had proof. He said absolutely. He said he had been a victim of a huge scam, and Wesley was the person behind it. And he told you Wesley had sent thugs to his home? BL: Yes. And they had stolen hard drives and other electronics. What did he offer as definitive proof? BL: He said he had bank statements, police reports, and voice recordings of Wesley. This can be a little hard to follow so we’re going to make this as crystal clear as we can. But if readers want to take a deeper dive, they can find more info where? BL: I created a blog with a very detailed timeline of what occurred. It’s at www.scamclarification.com. For the last few months, you and Wesley have not had an amicable relationship. BL: Not at all. Wesley and I didn’t like each other very much. I specifically had a personal dislike for him. When I heard this info about Wesley, I immediately rushed to judgment. Wesley Fei: Things happen in poker. It’s just poker. It can be very emotional at times. Ben, you seemed to really feel a lot of sympathy for this person? BL: I did. He was a victim. He said he was an average working professional, and the money was his entire life savings. I was also very enraged at the fact that somebody I knew was behind this. Then what happened? BL: He asked for my financial support in exposing this information in June. I did not engage, and I didn’t give him any money. Then he contacted me again in August and was pressing me for funds to help. He told you he had begun his own investigation, and it had cost £40,000 – £50,000 in expenses. Correct? BL: Yes. He was running his own private investigation. He needed me to pay some of the expenses. Then he made me a proposal. He wanted $2,500 upfront for what he called a gesture of “good faith.” And that would be followed by three payments of $2,500 every time a media journalist vetted this story and decided to publish it. That made you more comfortable that a journalist would do their due diligence and verify the story. BL: Yes. I expected that professionals would investigate and verify the facts. If he was willing to have journalists validate his story, that would obviously prove that his story was true. My goal was to hold Wesley accountable for these crimes that he had allegedly perpetrated. What did you eventually send him? BL: I was not very comfortable sending him any amount upfront. Because, as you’re very well aware, on the Internet, people can scam you for $2,500 and then disappear. I assume he felt your hesitation because he ratcheted up the stakes. BL: He did. He said that Wesley reached out to him and offered him $35,000 to do two things, to shut up forever by burying the story completely. And second of all, to out me as the mastermind behind the entire operation. Which wasn’t at all true. I didn’t go to him. He came to me. I didn’t hire him to demolish Wesley’s reputation. He was blackmailing you now at this point. BL: Yes. He was putting me under a lot of pressure because he was going to frame me for something I hadn’t done. He explained himself: it’s true that Wesley scammed me, I’ve been a victim, but in the state I’m in right now, I’ve been financially ruined. And $35,000 was a lot of money to turn down. It was at this point that you wired the $2,500? BL: Yes. I did. Because he had sent me screenshots to prove that Wesley had contacted him with the $35,000 offer. He had Wesley’s correct info, his real phone number, and legal name. But the exact opposite was the case. BL: Yes. He also contacted Wesley and spun a completely different story. But he wanted to prove to me that Wesley was offering him $35,000 so I would get involved even deeper. This all happened during the last week of August. Once you agreed to fund a bit of this, he sent you a draft of a blog he had written that would be posted online. You said that it was badly written, so you assisted him by correcting the grammar and structure of the piece; then you sent it back to him. BL: I did. The writing was awful. It had spelling mistakes. I rewrote it and sent it back. And once again, he showed me a communication regarding Wesley offering to pay him off. So, I went along with it to out Wesley. Wesley Fei: I know. He showed you a screenshot to prove I contacted him. He probably fabricated it in Photoshop. But you and I were not talking at the time. He published the website on September 3rd. BL: Yes. After this hit the internet and Reddit, he told you he felt his life was in danger from Wesley’s goons. This is all too crazy. BL: I know. I also read that the scammer said he was getting threatening phone calls. This had to make you feel that you had to move fast and help this guy to get Wesley arrested. BL: And to be very honest with you, I thought that I was also in danger of physical harm. He told me he was being followed. He sent me voice recordings from Chinese thugs who said that they were going to come to his house. That is crazier. BL: I was enraged at this point. How could Wesley do this? It’s bad enough that he’s scamming somebody, but resorting to violence again was way out of line. I said to myself, if Wesley can send thugs after him, he can also send thugs after me. I then hired armed security to be stationed at my house 24/7 for a few days. To discover every detail about the alleged scam, and how Ben and Wesley navigated to a fruitful détente between them, and how they plotted to lure and trap the perpetrator, please watch the full, uncut video interview above. Benn Lee playing on the Hustler Casino Live stream The wrap-up I’m a fan of the HCL show. I was curious where the two of you have been as of late. BL: I didn’t feel comfortable making any appearances on HCL, as all of this was brewing underneath the surface. Will you appear anytime soon on HCL?BL: Not until I have worked out how I can immunize myself against such things as this; I will not be appearing on HCL at all. Okay. BL: It’s regrettable. I enjoy poker. I enjoy the competition. But I have not enjoyed being scammed twice this summer [Rob Mercer’s WSOP GoFundMe was the second]. I have to be accountable. I have to be better and just look at what I’m doing and not allow myself to have such low standards, basically. Do you still play poker? BL: Yes. I have a very cool private game. They’re good friends. I just don’t want to do it on stream for the time being. Wesley Fei lost a huge pot to Tom Dwan on Hustler Casino Live Wesley, you told me you’ve had a rough time these last few months at the tables. Wesley Fei: I have. I lost about $5,000,000, some on HCL and some in private games. I’m kind of frustrated about poker. And will you play on stream anytime soon? Wesley Fei: I need to be more low-profile like Ben. I have to admit, I loved the attention of being on the show. That feels good. But right now, I’m going to wait to see how I feel in the future. For now, I’m going to play less poker and focus more on life and business. Can I ask both of you what lessons you have learned from all of this madness? Ben? BL: All of this has certainly given me a lot of food for thought. I need to take stock and look at myself. I need to reflect. I need to take responsibility and be accountable. I’m very humbled by the whole situation. And it was exacerbated by your opinion of Wesley at the time. BL: I had been way too quick to rush to judgment. I was extremely biased and not objective when I was presented with the so-called evidence against Wesley. I believed it to be true because I wanted it to be true. And for you, Wesley? I know you’re a bit hardened to this type of scammer activity in regard to what has gone on within the crypto space. Wesley Fei: Yeah. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really care much about the threats of a scam toward me. I even posted it on X. I don’t like being accused of these things, but I’ve seen so much of this in the crypto space. I didn’t take it seriously. Did you two guys become friends? Obviously, it seems you understand each other differently now. Wesley Fei: Yeah, yeah, we’re friends for sure now, especially after having gone through all of this together. BL: Yes. We’re friends. We talk almost every day now.
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