USC Football Player Turned Drug, Gambling Crime Lord Released Early

Posted on: March 21, 2024, 06:02h. 

Last updated on: March 22, 2024, 10:31h.

Owen Hanson, the former USC football player who swapped college athletics for notoriety as an online gambling and drug-trafficking kingpin, was released early from a federal prison this week.

Owen Hanson, release, USC, RJ Cipriani, Robin Hood 702, USC football, drugs, gambling
Owen Hanson photoshopped himself in front of the defaced grave of RJ Cipriana’s mother, which was sent to the gambler as part of a campaign of harassment and intimidation. Hanson is pictured during his USC football days, bottom left. (Image: RJ Cipriani/USC)

Hanson was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison in late 2017 after pleading guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to distribute drugs.

It’s unclear why Hanson, who is currently the subject of an Amazon Sports docuseries from Mark Wahlberg’s production company, is being released early.

The motion for the sentence reduction is currently under seal. The order granting it cites “extraordinary and compelling reasons.”

Rise of a Criminal Empire

Hanson, now 41, was arrested in 2015 in an FBI sting that targeted his multimillion-dollar illegal gambling and narcotics empire.

The former USC tight end enjoyed a privileged upbringing in Redondo Beach, Calif., where he was popular, charismatic, expensively educated, and seemingly destined for great things. His descent into the dark side began after he began selling performance-enhancing drugs to fellow college athletes.

From there, he graduated to internationally trafficking cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, and heroin. At the same time, he ran an offshore sports betting site that employed violent enforcers to collect gambling debts.

Things began to fall apart for Hanson when he hooked up with professional gambler and Las Vegas personality Robert “RJ” Cipriani, aka “Robin Hood 702.”

Cipriani employs the Robin Hood moniker, coupled with the Las Vegas-area dialing code, because he allegedly donates a portion of his gambling winnings to charitable causes.

But on this occasion, his job was to launder $2.5 million of Hanson’s drug money by gambling with it, minimally, at the gaming tables of an Australian casino. Cipriani blew the lot, purposefully, he claims, because he suspected he was being set up for money laundering.

Modern Day Robin Hood

Cipriani made an anonymous call to Australian authorities to report the presence of a gun in a Sydney hotel room linked to Hanson. Then he fled to the US.

Instead of a gun, police found a suitcase filled with $700K in cash in the hotel room. When Cipriani got back home, he contacted the FBI.

Before his arrest, Hanson hounded Cipriani with death threats, sending photos of the gambler’s deceased mother’s defaced headstone, along with execution videos to Cipriani and his family members.

Upon hearing of his former tormentor’s release, Cipriani told Deadline this week that he was prepared to offer Hanson a “beautiful one-bedroom apartment” for free for six months to help “Mr. Hanson assimilate back into society, and to help him get back on his feet.”

“From the last person that he’d ever expect to help in life, I wanted to be that person. I wanted to ‘Pray It Up’ as Mark Wahlberg has suggested,” Cipriani joked.