New York Billionaire Pleads Guilty to Running Illegal Gambling Ring

A billionaire art dealer from New York has pleaded guilty to organizing an international level multimillion dollar high stakes gambling business, which involved a Russian criminal and a Hollywood-based hostess who organized poker games for celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon.

The accused, Hillel Nahmad who is worth $1.75 billion, admitted that he was guilty at a federal court in Manhattan. The court has ordered him to forfeit a painting titled “Carnaval a Nice, 1937” by Raoul Dufy along with $6,427,000. Since Nahmad has pleaded guilty, several charges against him have been dropped as a result of which he might get only as many as 5 years in jail instead of the 92-year prison term that might have been slapped on him had he been proven guilty.

He told the judge that his illegal high-stakes business began as a hobby with just ‘a group of friends betting on sports event” and later grew into a business. He admitted to have “crossed the line.”

As many as 34 people, including Nahmad, were arrested in April on grounds of organizing sports betting businesses and high-stakes poker games for professional poker players, celebrities, and Wall Street personalities. Prosecutors say that the accused had laundered around $100 million.

Vadim Trincher, a professional poker player, had allegedly run “the world’s largest sportsbook” from his Trump Tower apartment worth $5 million. Trincher had headed an illegal gambling ring, in which a Russian mobster was also involved. Illya, Vadim’s son, Nahmad, and another accused called Noah Siegel ran another illegal gambling ring for the billionaire entrepreneurs and celebrities of Los Angeles and New York.

Prosecutors have accused Trincher and Nahmad of processing bets worth millions of dollars annually through illegal gambling sites based in the US and laundering the profits through businesses such as car repair, used car sales, and plumbing.

Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University, says that billionaire art dealer “got away relatively easy,” but the “real question is what happens to the Trinchers and others who seem to have been involved in more serious criminal activity.” He further said: “If they are convicted, and on serious charges with serious penalties, then this can be said to have dealt a solid blow to Russian organized crime in the United States.”

The chief accused Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, however, is freely moving around in Moscow. Tokhtakhounov is not only wanted by the Interpol, but was also accused of bribing the judges of the ice skating event at the Winter Olympics of 2002. Tokhtakhounov stands accused of resolving disputes within the illegal gambling rings by using “threats of violence and economic harm.” At an interview on Mir 24, a TV channel, Tokhtakhounov calls the case of the illegal gambling rings “another fairytale from the Americans,” but he did admit to have “given advice” to Nahmad and Trincher.

Molly Bloom is another chief accused in the case. Notorious as the “Poker Princess,” she has admitted to organizing high-stakes poker games for sports and movie celebrities such as Pete Sampras, Damon, DiCaprio, and Ben Affleck.

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