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NYC Art Gallery Gambling Prosecution Yields Guilty Plea

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Aug. 16 (Bloomberg) -- A man tied to an international gambling ring involving a Manhattan art gallery and a reputed Russian crime boss pleaded guilty to charges stemming from what prosecutors said were two overlapping high-stakes games catering to celebrities and the wealthy.

The U.S. in April charged 34 defendants, including gallery owner Hillel “Helly” Nahmad, as part of the crackdown. Today in Manhattan federal court, Kirill Rapoport, one of the accused, pleaded guilty to running an illegal poker game, the government said in a statement.

Another participant in the scheme, William Barbalat, pleaded guilty earlier this week, prosecutors said.

With the two pleas, “we move closer to holding to account all those who participated in this wide-ranging network of criminal conduct linked to organized crime,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in the statement.

Prosecutors alleged the defendants were affiliated with overlapping gambling operations run by Vadim Trincher, a New Yorker, and his son, Illya Trincher, of Beverly Hills, California.

Other people charged include Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, allegedly a “Vor,” or high-level Russian criminal, who has also been charged in connection with bribing officials at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Picasso Gallery

Nahmad, owner of the Helly Nahmad Gallery at the Carlyle Hotel on Madison Avenue, is charged with racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and other crimes. His gallery sells paintings by modern masters including Pablo Picasso.

The Trinchers and Nahmad have pleaded not guilty, according to court records. Tokhtakhounov is still at large, the government said.

Paul Schechtman, a lawyer for Nahmad, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on this week’s pleas.

The case is U.S. v. Tokhtakhounov, 13-cr-00268, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Christie Smythe in Manhattan federal court at csmythe1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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