Billionaire Art Dealer Busted in Federal Gambling Raid

Sometimes the truth can be stranger than fiction, as is the case with the story of a federal raid that took place this week on New York City’s tony Upper East Side in one of its most luxurious hotels, the Carlyle. Federal agents raided an art gallery located inside the historic hotel, the Helly Nahmad Gallery.

The gallery, which has sold works by modern masters such as Francis Bacon, according to the New York Times, is owned by Hillel “Helly” Nahmad, a member of one of the world’s wealthiest families. The Nahmad family fortune has been estimated at $3 billion by Forbes. The family operates art galleries in London and New York.

Helly Nahmad was one of thirty arrested in connection with what authorities call a massive illegal gambling operation with links to Russian organized crime. Charges against the individuals have not yet been publicized, though money laundering and gambling are expected to be among the accusations announced against the arrested persons, some of whom are from New York. People from Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Miami, as well as other locations will also be charged in connection to the case, authorities said.

The government says that Nahmad and Russian organized crime figure Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov operated two illegal high-stakes gambling rings – one serving the United States as well as an overseas ring allegedly overseen by Tokhtakhounov. The groups are said to have laundered tens of millions of dollars through Cypriot banks, money that eventually made its way to the United States, according to the indictments.

The domestic group headed up by Nahmad included high stakes poker games in New York City open to wealthy businessman, Wall Street bankers, and celebrities. The Times reported the Nahmad’s art gallery was closed on Tuesday, with all the windows papered over and a sign hung that read, “We are closed for renovation, please ring the bell or call.”

Adding even more intrigue to the tale is a little backstory on Tokhtakhounov, who, according to the indictment against, him, has attained the highest level of the Russian Mafia, making him a “thief in law” – or in Russian a Vory V Zakone (sometimes shortened to Vor). Tokhtakhounov, a former athlete with ties to powerful figures in Russian business and politics, including links to Vladimir Putin, was indicted for attempting to fix the 2002  Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City, Utah, specifically the pairs figure skating and ice dancer events.

Tokhtakhounov was eventually arrested by Italian authorities on behalf of the United States, however he was never extradited to the United States to face the charges that he worked with Russian organized criminals to arrange a deal in which the Russians took home a gold medal in the pairs event in exchange for a win for the French ice dancers.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on,, and

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