Hollywood's 'Poker Princess' Among Those Tied to Russian Mob Gambling Ring
The United States Attorney in Manhattan has unsealed an indictment against 34 individuals who are alleged to have participated in two related Russian-American organized crime enterprises engaged in gambling and money laundering. The massive criminal action threatens to expose celebrities engaged in illegal poker games as prosecutors hunt for witnesses and attempt to follow the money trail.
One of the most prominent men charged is Hillel Nahmad, who ran the Helly Nahmad gallery inside the Carlyle Hotel, a 35-story tower built in 1930 whose residents include IAC chairman Barry Diller and Paramount Pictures chairman Brad Grey. The Carlyle also has a four-story hotel that has attracted the likes of George Clooney, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Nahmad is a regular on the party scene and once bragged to a Brazilian newspaper that he introduced model Gisele Bundchen to Leonardo DiCaprio. Today, he's been tagged with financing a massive criminal operation.
The indictment also includes charges against Molly Bloom, a woman who admitted to having played a key role arranging high-stakes poker games in Hollywood that included the likes of DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck and others.
Bloom, dubbed the "Poker Princess" by the media, has been a figure of some intrigue over the years. Born in Colorado, Bloom's brother is a ESPN college football analyst. She moved to Hollywood in 2003 and set up an event-planning business. Eventually, she became involved in helping run poker games at luxurious Beverly Hills hotels that invited scrutiny when one of the participants, a hedge fund manager named Bradley Ruderman, was convicted of wire fraud and investment fraud. Ruderman's company later declared bankruptcy, and a trustee attempted to hunt down some $25 million allegedly lost in these poker games.
According to court documents, as detailed in The Hollywood Reporter story "The Secret World of Hollywood Poker," Bloom was paid to set up hotel suites for games, relay information to the players and hire dealers as well as arrange for food, drinks, massages and bodyguards. Bloom also kept track of winnings and losses and arranged for payment to be made among players. She was well connected. In one deposition she gave, she said she had a "social relationship with most of" the players.
In about 2009, she moved to New York and was later reported to have received a beating at the hands of "two Eastern European thugs." She also signed a book deal with a division of HarperCollins, where she was scheduled to detail the poker matches she had set up over the years.
It was originally believed that she moved away from New York, but in the indictment that was unsealed today, Bloom is one of the individuals who is charged with operating an illegal poker business from 2010 until the present. She is now facing up to 10 years in prison.
The indictment doesn't say exactly who were the clients involved in illegal gambling operations in New York, but the defendants are said to have "catered primarily to celebrities, professional poker players and very wealthy individuals working in the financial industry."
Nahmad might have knowledge about what happened. His gallery was one of the targets of an FBI raid on early Tuesday. He faces up to 97 years in prison. In announcing the indictment, prosecutors said that Nahmad was expected to surrender in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
He's being connected to one of the two main gambling and money laundering operations believed by authorities to have been worth more than $50 million. Illya Trincher, a 27-year-old from Beverly Hills, is alleged to have run the Nahmad-Trincher Organization that was financed by a number of individuals and entities including Nahmad's art gallery. The crime operations are also described as utilizing the services of Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, a former Soviet crime figure who was once tied to a bid to rig figure skating competitions at the Winter Olympics and who is now alleged to have participated in a sophisticated scheme to launder tens of millions of dollars in gambling proceeds through bank accounts and shell companies in Cyprus.
Other individuals charged include those those said to have agreed to use violence and threats to collect gambling debts. Prosecutors say that the poker games operated by the defendants resulted in gambling debts as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars.