Kirill Rapoport took the art of collecting on a poker debt to extreme levels when he sent mixed martial arts fighters to collect in New York City. On Thursday, December 19th, Rapoport was sentenced to six months in jail.
Back in April Rapoport was indicted on illegal gambling charges along with 33 others. In August Rapoport pled guilty to running poker games in Manhattan. His plea could have found him facing up 12 months in jail.
Rapoport referred to himself as being a small cog in the $100 million gambling operation that had ties to the Russian Mob and in the August hearing he asked for no jail time.
Federal prosecutors released a pre-sentence letter this week in which federal prosecutors said FBI agents witnessed Rapoport, associate Arthur Azen, and two mixed martial arts fighters trying to collect up to $40,000 in debts from a poker player. The prosecutors went on to say the MMA fighters were used as a scare tactic.
Rapoport's job, according to the letter, was to "make sure that bettors at Azen’s illegal poker games and bettors of Azen’s sports book paid their debts."
Rapoport's attorney, Jay Schwitzman, claimed that his client was not armed during the visit with the debtor during the Thursday hearing. But Federal Judge Jesse Furman said that the MMA "goons" were intended to serve as weapons.
"There is no question in my mind that the reason to have two mixed martial arts fighters with you is to send an unmistakable message," Furman said, according to the New York Daily News.
"I'm very sorry from my heart," Rapoport said. "I’m just sorry for everybody and my family." Rapoport appeared to be very apologetic before his sentencing hearing.
Another defendant in the case William Barbalat, was also sentenced on Thursday. Barbalat pled guilty in August to aiding in unlawful activity and conducting an illegal gambling business. Barbalat did not receive jail time, he was sentenced to two years of probation and 200 hours of community service.
Barbalat's crime, according to prosecutors, was running a poker game in Manhattan that brought many pro athletes, Hollywood stars, and Wall Street millionaires to the tables. Barbalat also took a rake from the pots in the games and that's illegal in New York State.
"We are pleased at today's outcome and that the judge was able to see our client for who he really is," said Barbalat's lawyer, Silvia Serpe.