Poker News Daily
By Earl Burton
In stunning news from New York City, two of the alleged masterminds of the gambling ring that supposedly had Russian organized crime ties have pleaded guilty in court to a variety of charges.
In federal court on Wednesday, poker professional Vadim Trincher reached a plea agreement with prosecutors that will significantly cut any time he might serve in prison. Trincher agreed to plead guilty to illegal gambling charges, according to the New York Daily News, admitting that he took bets from gamblers in the United States and in Europe. Trincher would be sentenced to 20 years in prison if found guilty in a court proceeding but, through the plea deal, the agreement between Trincher’s lawyers and the feds will call for somewhere between 21 and 27 months in jail.
In confessing to his part in the gambling ring, Trincher admitted running what prosecutors called “the world’s largest sports book” out of his Trump Tower apartment in New York City. That operation supposedly took in as much as $50 million during its operation, which Trincher then laundered through bank accounts around the world. The laundering also included such legitimate businesses as plumbing, real estate, car repair and a used-car business, according to the British newspaper The Independent.
One of the other main figures in the case is noted art dealer Hillel “Helly” Nahmad, who also pled guilty on Wednesday to operating a gambling business. Nahmad, facing charges of money laundering, racketeering and conspiracy that might have netted him a 92-year jail term, instead chose the plea deal that could only get him five years in prison. Nahmad, who is estimated by Forbes Magazine to be worth $1.75 billion, also forfeited almost $6.5 million and a painting that is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In admitting his role in the gambling ring, Nahmad stated to the court, “This all started as a group of friends betting on sporting events…I recognize that I crossed the line.”
Trincher and Nahmad join five others who have already pled guilty to their involvement in the case. In July, Hollywood producer Bryan Zuriff pled guilty to acceptance of financial instruments for unlawful internet gambling. Zuriff, who was the executive producer of the Showtime series “Ray Donovan” (from which he was subsequently fired), paid a $500,000 fine, but still faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced at some time this month.
In August, William Barbalat and Kirill Rapoport pled guilty regarding their roles in the case. Both men pled guilty to traveling in interstate commerce in aid of an unlawful activity and conducting an illegal gambling business, which was a poker game that reportedly ran from 2010 to early this year. Barbalat and Rapoport also could get as much as five years in jail for their roles in the case.
In September, poker professional Justin ‘BoostedJ’ Smith and Edwin Ting both pled guilty to different charges. Smith pled guilty to taking payments for internet gambling and Ting confessed to operating an illegal gambling business. They also face up to five years in jail for their involvement in the case.
The five men who have previously pled guilty to these charges may not actually serve the maximum, according to reports. Because of their plea deals, they may receive less (or no) time in jail. Trincher and Nahmad, however, will probably see some significant jail time for their roles as the “masterminds” of the gambling operation.
According to the Independent, the third man who is alleged to have been at the helm of the operation, Alimzhan “Taiwanchik” Tokhtakhounov, is still at large.
Viewed as one of the kingpins of the Russian organized crime syndicate, Tokhtakhounov is alleged to have attempted to bribe judges at the 2002 Winter Olympics ice skating competition (among other crimes) and was named in 2011 as one of Forbes Magazine’s “Most Wanted Fugitives.” The Independent reports that, surprisingly, Tokhtakhounov is living openly in Moscow at this time. Interviewed by a Russian television station, Tokhtakhounov has called the federal case in New York “yet another fairy tale from the Americans,” although he does admit he might have given some advice to friends who were indicted in the case.
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