April 16 (Bloomberg) -- A Manhattan art gallery owner and a reputed Russian crime boss are among 34 people charged with operating two overlapping high-stakes gambling rings that catered to celebrities and the very wealthy.
U.S. prosecutors charged the defendants, including gallery owner Hillel “Helly” Nahmad, and Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, allegedly a “Vor,” or high-level Russian criminal, in a 27-count indictment unsealed today in federal court in Manhattan. Also today, 29 of the defendants were arrested in New York, Philadelphia, Detroit and Los Angeles, according to a statement from the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
“These criminal enterprises were vast and many-tentacled, with one of them reaching across the Atlantic to launder tens of millions of dollars from Russia to the U.S. via Cyprus and, in some cases, back again,” Bharara said in the statement.
Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New York searched homes in the Trump Building on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue and the Helly Nahmad Gallery at the Carlyle Hotel on Madison Avenue.
The 20 defendants arrested in New York were charged in Manhattan federal court today, Bharara’s office said. Nahmad is expected to surrender to authorities in Los Angeles, according to the statement. Four others, including Tokhtakhounov, 64, are fugitives.
The FBI said in a statement that it’s seeking the public’s help in locating three of the defendants: Abraham Mosseri, 39, Donald McCalmont, 45, and William Edler, 49.
Nahmad, 34, is charged with racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and other charges. His gallery sells paintings by Pablo Picasso and other modern masters.
The gallery and Aaron Golub, a lawyer who represented Nahmad in a civil matter, didn’t immediately return phone messages seeking comment on the charges.
Prosecutors said one of the rings, run by Vadim Trincher, a 52-year-old New Yorker, ran an international sports book for wealthy Russians and laundered tens of millions of dollars from Russia and Ukraine through Cyprus to the U.S.
Tokhtakhounov, who has also been charged in connection with bribing officials of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, provided protection to the ring and was paid $10 million in a single two-month period, prosecutors said.
The other ring, run by Trincher’s son, Illya Trincher, 27, of Beverly Hills, California, ran a high-stakes gambling operation for millionaires and billionaires, according to the government. The ring was supported, in part, by Nahmad’s New York gallery, which last year held an exhibition of modern and postwar artists including Joan Miro, Alexander Calder, Jean Dubuffet and Fernand Leger.
One client lost about $2 million to the ring and was forced to turn over his plumbing company in payment, prosecutors said. The group allegedly laundered tens of millions of dollars, with the advice of a branch manager of a New York bank that prosecutors didn’t identify by name.
Charges against the defendants include racketeering, illegal sports gambling, running an illegal poker business, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, extortion and violation of the federal Travel Act.
The case is U.S. v. Tokhtakhounov, 13-cr-00268, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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