New York art dealer Hillel ‘Helly’ Nahmad has become the latest defendant to plead guilty in the Russian-American bi-coastal sports betting/high-stakes poker ring broken up in April by the US Department of Justice. Originally charged with racketeering, fraud and money laundering, the son of billionaire art dealer David Nahmad pled guilty on Tuesday in a Manhattan court to a single charge of operating an illegal gambling business.
Nahmad, who runs the Helly Nahmad Gallery out of the Carlyle Hotel in New York, has agreed to forfeit $6.427m in cash and a 1947 Raoul Dufypainting (worth an estimated several hundred grand) to the government. Nahmad faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison when JudgeJesse M. Furman hands down his sentence on March 19, although it’s believed he will receive no more than 18 months, and there’s a chance he may escape jail time altogether. The terms of Nahmad’s deal do no require him to cooperate with the DOJ.
In the press release announcing the plea deal, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said Nahmad had “bet that he would never get caught and he lost. His guilty plea today has dealt a substantial blow to this international enterprise.” Nahmad told Furman that “this all started as a group of friends betting on sporting events, but I recognize that I crossed the line … It started as a hobby. Unfortunately, it became a business. It was never my main business.”
Nahmad is the 14th member of the 34 defendants accused of operating the ‘Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization’ that have reached deals with the Department of Justice. The first defendant to reach a deal, Hollywood producer Bryan Zuriff, whose credits include Showtime series Ray Donovan, pled guilty in July to accepting financial instruments for unlawful internet gambling. Sentencing is set for Nov. 25, but on Monday, Zuriff’s attorneys submitted a request for a probationary sentence, and included character references from actor-writer-director Peter Berg, producer Mark Gordon and actor Jon Voight, the latter of whom asked the judge to consider that “whatever mistakes [Zuriff] has made, I’m sure he has learned his lesson quite well.”