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US judge sentences Russian gambling ring members

April 30, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — A judge took a stern approach in sentencing members of a Russian organized crime operation that offered high-stakes poker games to the rich and famous, including pro athletes, Hollywood celebrities and Wall Street executives.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman on Wednesday ordered 53-year-old Adam Trincher to prison immediately to begin a five-year sentence. Trincher sobbed as he apologized.

The sentence was more than double the guidelines range originally calculated in the case. Furman said a five-year sentence was warranted for Trincher and another defendant sentenced a day earlier because of the size of the gambling operation and a money laundering scheme that accompanied it: Prosecutors said the organization laundered more than $100 million.

Hillel “Helly” Nahmad, a wealthy Manhattan art scion, was sentenced to one year in prison on Wednesday. He is one of 28 people who pleaded guilty in the case. Nahmad previously agreed to pay a $6.4 million judgment.

Nahmad, 35, pleaded guilty late last year to charges he helped run an illegal sports betting business that was exposed in an investigation of a sprawling scheme by Russian-American organized crime enterprises. He was among more than 30 people named in indictments alleging a plot to launder illegal gambling proceeds through hundreds of bank accounts and shell companies in Cyprus and the United States.

The gambling ring catered mostly to super-rich bettors in Russia. But it also had tentacles in New York City, where it ran illegal card games that attracted professional athletes, film stars and business executives, prosecutors said. Some of the defendants are professional poker players.

In court papers, prosecutors cited a New York Post photograph showing Nahmad cheering at a New York Knicks game shortly after his arrest as he wore a cap with a playing card on it and sitting courtside next to his high-powered defense attorney, Benjamin Brafman. Spike Lee is a seat away.

The scene suggests that Nahmad was “making light of the seriousness of the gambling charges,” prosecutors wrote in advance of Nahmad’s sentencing. They were seeking a minimum of a year behind bars for Nahmad.

In its papers, the defense conceded that Nahmad was an “inveterate gambler” who began betting on the Knicks — and mostly losing — at age 14. But the papers sought to portray him as a minor player in the gambling scheme, and as an otherwise law-abiding and widely respected art dealer who deserves only probation instead of prison time.

Nahmad comes from an art-dealing clan whose collection includes 300 Picassos worth $900 million, according to Forbes. He also is known for socializing with Hollywood luminaries like Leonardo DiCaprio.

Prosecutors had alleged that, along with laundering tens of millions of dollars, Nahmad committed fraud by trying to sell a piece of art for $300,000 that was worth at least $50,000 less. He was required to turn over the painting to the government as part of a $6.4 million judgment.

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Associated Press Writer Larry Neumeister contributed to this report.

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