Federal Judge Sentences Hillel Nahmad, Other Members of Illegal Gambling Ring
Members of a Russian organized crime operation which hosted high-stakes poker games for celebrities and CEOs were sentenced this week in a New York federal court. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman sentenced 53-year-old Adam Trincher to 5 years of prison. Trincher sobbed as he apologized to the court for his misconduct.
The guidelines of incarceration in such cases typically call for less than half of the prison time. The day before, another defendant, Hillel Nahmad, received a similar term of incarceration. Judge Furman said the harsher sentence was deserved, because of the sheer size of the gambling operation and money laundering scheme.
Crime Ring Laundered $100 Million
According to prosecutors, the gambling ring may have laundered more than $100 million. The gambling ring is thought to have involved Hollywood celebrities. One of those sentenced for involvement in the crime ring, Hillel Nahmad, is known to socialize with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Wealthy Art Dealer Sentenced
Hillel “Helly” Nahmad is the son of a wealthy Manhattan art fortune, which includes 300 Picassos worth an estimated $900 million. Despite his family fortune, the Manhattan art dealer, who runs an eponymous art gallery in the Carlyle Hotel, was sentenced to 1 year in prison on Wednesday. In all, the federal case involved 28 people who pleaded guilty to various charges.
Nahmad, 35, pleaded guilty to running an illegal sports gambling business which came to the attention of federal investigators. Besides the one year sentence, Nahmad was ordered to pay a $6.4 million judgment.
Russian-American Organized Crime
The illegal sports betting ring was associated with a sprawling international Russian-American organized criminal enterprise. More than thirty people were indicted for laundering illegal gambling proceeds through hundreds of bank accounts. Those bank accounts were tied to shell companies registered in the United States and Cyprus.
Though the case got headlines for the poker games involving high roller celebrities and wealthy elite of New York City, the largest part of the money involved ultra-rich gamblers back in Russia. The American wing of the illegal gambling network is said to have included pro athletes, movie stars, professional poker players, and high dollar business executives.
Making Light of Gambling Charges
Hillel Nahmad’s case may have been hurt by his “making light of the seriousness of the gambling charges”. During his trial, prosecutors showed a photo of Nahmad sitting next to his high-priced attorney, Benjamin Brafman, at a New York Knicks game. On the other side of Nahmad was director Spike Lee. In his hat was a playing card, which federal prosecutors thought was making light of the arrests.
Sources close to the prosecutors said they wanted to have Mr. Nahmad serve at least a one-year jail sentence. Nahmad, who once dated Victoria’s Secret model Ana Beatriz Barros, had asked the judge to let him remain free, so he could start a foundation to help disadvantaged kids learn art appreciation. Judge Furman told the man such leniency “would breed contempt for the law.”
Differing Pictures of the Defendant
The defense team characterized Nahmad as an “inveterate gambler” who got caught up in a scheme with hardened criminals–and could not get out. In his closing arguments, defense attorney Benjamin Brafman said, “He’s a good person and he screwed up and he’s worth saving.”
Audio of the back-room dealings of the crime ring painted a different picture, though. For instance, wiretaps revealed Nahmad discussing making a man recently released from a rehab clinic the ring’s next target. Nahmad was recorded saying, “We knock this guy off for one million bucks. His dad is a multimillionaire.”
Poker Princess Tabloid Story
The case has received more than its share of coverage in the New York City media. When Molly Bloom pleaded guilty to lesser charges back in December 2013, newspaper articles dubbing her the “Poker Princess” were found in newspapers and online news sites across the United States. Molly Bloom said she arranged to have the high dollar poker sessions moved from Los Angeles to New York City, where she hosted gambling in two swank Manhattan hotels.
At the time, Molly Bloom faced up to 5 years in prison. Her testimony was important to the conviction of the shadowy men behind the gambling ring. She told a tale of getting out after two Eastern European men tied to Russian organized crime roughed her up in her home back in 2010. After reaching a plea bargain, the Poker Princess received a lesser sentence which would range between 6 months in prison and 6 months of probation. She is yet to be sentenced, yet her testimony helped convict those who saw their cases end this week.
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