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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
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34 Charged in Bust of Powerful Poker Rings

(CN) - Poker professionals were among 34 people charged with orchestrating or participating in massive illegal gambling rings that catered to the rich and famous and had ties to the Russian mob.

A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday claims the gambling rings were run by two main organized crime groups: the Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization and the Nahmad-Trincher Organization.

The first was led by poker pro Vadim Trincher a.k.a. "Dima," fugitive Russian mobster Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov and Anatoly Golubchuk, a.k.a. "Tony," according to the 84-page indictment.

Prominent New York art dealer Hillel Nahmad and Vadim's son, Illya Trincher, were associated with the Nahmad-Trincher Organization, authorities say.

The Nahmad-Trincher Organization allegedly received part of its funding from Nahmad's art gallery, the Helly Nahmad Gallery, in the posh Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan. It was also funded by Nahmad's father, billionaire art dealer (nonparty) David Nahmad, and by JH Capital, an investment firm run by poker star John Hanson, the indictment claims.

Hanson is named as a defendant, along with fellow poker pros Bill Edler, Peter Feldman, Abe Mosseri, Joe Mancuso a.k.a. "Joe the Hammer" and Eddie Ting.

The indictment also includes charges against Molly Bloom, dubbed the "Poker Princess" by the media for her reported role in arranging high-stakes poker games for Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Tobey McGuire and other Hollywood celebrities.

Forbes called the Nahmad family "one of the richest and most powerful art-dealing dynasties in the world" and estimated its fortune at $1.75 billion as of last year.

The family has amassed an estimated 300 Picassos worth $900 million and about 4,500 other works by artists such as Monet and Miro, according to The New York Times.

The FBI raided the gallery on Tuesday morning.

The 27-count indictment states that from the mid-2000s until recently, the Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization operated a "high-stakes illegal sports gambling business that catered almost exclusively to oligarchs living in Ukraine and the Russian Federation."

Tokhtakhounov, also called "Taiwanchik" or "Alik," is described in the indictment as a "powerful figure in former Soviet Union organized crime" who was previously accused of bribing figure skating judges at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Authorities say he was one of Russia's top mobsters, known as a "Vor" or "Thief-in-Law."

"As a Vor, Tokhtakhounov had substantial influence in the criminal underworld and offered assistance to and protection of the Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization," the indictment states.

He allegedly "used his status as a Vor to resolve disputes with clients of the high-stakes illegal gambling operation with implicit and sometimes explicit threats of violence and economic harm."

The mob's members used "extortionate means" to collect debts, according to the grand jury indictment, including the use of "actual and threatened force, violence and fear."

Its principals then "participated in a sophisticated international scheme to launder tens of millions of dollars in proceeds from their illegal gambling business through bank accounts and shell companies in Cyprus, including from the Russian Federation to Cyprus and then back to the Russian Federation, and from the Russian Federation to Cyprus and then to the United States," the indictment states.

Authorities say the Nahmad-Trincher Organization ran high-stakes online gambling rings out of New York City and Los Angeles that catered to multimillionaires and billionaires, and "generated tens of millions of dollars in bets each year."

Its members then laundered money through U.S. bank accounts and a Bronx-based plumbing company that gave up a 50 percent stake in its business to repay a gambling debt, according to the indictment.

Defendants include poker professionals Bill Edler, Peter Feldman, Abe Mosseri, Joe Mancuso, Vadim Trincher, John Hanson and Eddie Ting

The 34 defendants face charges of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, illegal sports gambling, accepting payment for illegal gambling, money laundering conspiracy, and extortion, among others.

Though the poker participants reportedly included professional athletes, Hollywood celebrities and Wall Street executives, none are named in the indictment.

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