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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Prison sentences given to Vadim Trencher and Hillel Nahmad

Vadim Trencher
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Pro poker players, art dealers, movie stars, and others, beware — if you mess with the bull, you get the shaft horn. That's how it must feel to Vadim Trincher, winner of the 2009 World Poker Tour Foxwoods Poker Classic ($731,079). Trincher was sentenced to five years in prison on Tuesday after pleading guilty with a workout-deal with prosecutors. Trincher was part of the illegal New York City gambling ring that brought many pro athletes, Hollywood stars, and Wall Street millionaires into his circle of gambling acquaintances.

Trincher’s original charges were: illegal gambling, racketeering, extortion, and money laundering. In November he pled guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy — and forged an agreement with prosecutors that he would forfeit $6.5 million in cash and $20 million worth of property. That deal apparently was missed by the judge because he’s looking at five long years behind bars.

There were 34 people indicted on illegal gambling charges in April, 2013 — the FBI’s Eurasian Organized Crime Squad executed federal search warrants to capture an illegal gambling ring that was supposedly tied to organized crime in Russia. The warrants were served in numerous U.S. cities.

The charges against Trincher in the original warrant were illegal gambling, racketeering, extortion, and money laundering. Guilty of a single count of racketeering conspiracy was the plea Trincher agreed to in November. U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman also gave a five-year prison sentence to Anatoly Golubchik, another defendant in the case. Each man was ordered to forfeit more than $20 million in cash, investments, and real property.

"The sentences meted out to Anatoly Golubchik and Vadim Trincher are just and appropriate penalties for the roles the defendants played in this far-reaching, Russian-American organized crime ring," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. "I’d like to thank the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New York City Police Department, and the Internal Revenue Service for their tireless efforts in working to ensure that the members of this underground enterprise were held to account for their crimes."

A high-stakes poker game was also part of the mix even though the gambling operation was geared more to wealthy Russian bettors. The poker game brought celebrities like Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Alex Rodriguez and Matt Damon to the tables.

Previous to 2010, Trincher was part of the tournament circuit and holds more than $1.2 million in live career tournament earnings. Trincher's sons, Illya and Eugene, both reached plea deals last November after being named in the indictment. Illya is also a poker personality and appeared on Season 3 of High Stakes Poker.

Helly Nahmad, another indictee, stood before the judge a day later. Nahmad's family controls one of the richest and most powerful art-dealing empires in the world but that didn't stop the judge from sentencing him to a year and a day in prison for his involvement in the case.

Nahmad entered into a plea agreement last November, admitting that he organized an illegal sports gambling business and was the primary source of its financing. Judge Furman rejected Nahmad's proposal to donate $100,000 per year into a program that would teach art appreciation to underprivileged children. Nahmad will begin his prison sentence in mid June and pay monetarily with a fine of $30,000 and physically with 300 hours of community service and mentally through three years of supervised release.

"There is only one way for Mr. Nahmad to understand his actions have consequences … and that is to send him to prison," Furman stated on Wednesday in federal court.

Of the 34 defendants who were indicted, 28 have entered a guilty plea, including name-brand poker players Justin Smith, Abe Mosseri, Bill Edler, Peter Feldman, and John Hanson. Those pleas came down to Smith pleading guilty to gambling charges, Edler and Feldman were able to acquire deferred prosecution agreements, and both Hanson and Mosseri pled guilty to to numerous charges — making a fraudulent tax statement, failing to file a tax return, and causing a financial institution to be part of a lottery related matter.

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