Colorado Men Arrested on Suspicion of Using Rattlesnakes as Hit Men to Collect Debt

Two Lakewood men have been arrested on suspicion of trying to use rattlesnakes as hit men to collect on a gambling debt.

The men were allegedly trying to kill Matthew Sowash, owner of Amateur Poker Tour in Wheat Ridge because he owed them $60,000, the Rocky Mountain News reported. Arrest affidavits say Sowash's company stages Texas Hold'em-style poker games in Denver area bars.

Jim Shires of the Jefferson County Sheriff's office confirmed the arrests.

An investigation by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation led to the arrest of Herbert Paul Beck, 56, Thursday night in Raton, N.M., and Christopher Lee Steelman, 34, Wednesday night in Lakewood.

Bail for each suspect was set at $500,000 on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and extortion. Beck is being held in Raton and Steelman in the Jefferson County Jail in Golden.

Investigators said Steelman told them the two men discussed ways to kill Sowash and Beck suggested rattlesnakes. Beck allegedly told investigators he invested $36,000 in the company last December, and with interest was due $60,000.

The plan was to build a wooden box for Sowash to stand in that would hold the snakes, and "the lid was to be built to allow Sowash's legs to be put inside but not pulled out." The plan was to leave the rattlesnake-bitten Sowash on a hiking trail.

"The final and most disturbing method to Steelman was Beck wanting to kidnap Sowash's children and use them as leverage to get the money from Sowash," according to the affidavits.

Sowash contacted the CBI after getting threatening e-mails.

Both defendants have extensive arrest records.