Anatoly Golubchik gets five years for sports betting after judge goes off-script

anatoly-golubchik-sentencedA major figure in the so-called Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization had the book thrown at him Tuesday by a federal judge. New Jersey resident Anatoly Golubchik (pictured) was one of 34 individuals indicted last April by federal authorities as part of a crackdown on a vast illegal sports betting and poker operation involving Russian mobsters, Hollywood celebrities, major art dealers and professional poker players.

In November, the 57-year-old Golubchik worked out a deal with the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York to plead guilty to participating in a racketeering conspiracy. Golubchik also agreed to forfeit cash and property worth a hefty $20m. While Golubchik could have faced up to 20 years in prison, he believed he’d reached a deal in which prosecutors would recommend a sentence of no more than 21 to 27 months behind bars.

Judge Jesse M. Furman doesn’t appear to have agreed with this recommendation. On Tuesday, Furman sentenced a gobsmacked Golubchik to five years in prison, justifying the severity of the sentence by noting the defendant’s leading role in the operation. Golubchik’s attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, protested the “ridiculous” sentence, saying prosecutors had ‘ambushed’ his client with a last-minute sentencing switcheroo. Licthman told the New York Daily News that he’d never seen a judge impose a sentence “so drastically different” from the November deal Lichtman had “carefully negotiated” with prosecutors.

Furman’s willingness to stray from the script will likely have Hillel ‘Helly’ Nahmad sleeping a little less easy Tuesday night. The New York art dealer is set to appear before Furman on Wednesday to learn his own fate after pleading guilty in November to operating an illegal gambling business. Having agreed to forfeit $6.5m in cash, Nahmad is hoping to get away with community service while the prosecution is seeking a prison stay of between 12-18 months.

Meanwhile, north of the border, a Canadian bookie who ran an online credit betting operation has been sentenced to 18 months in jail. Gary Saikaley was one of 21 Ottawa-area individuals charged in November 2012 as part of Project Amethyst, a joint operation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Ottawa Police.

Saikaley admitted to being the administrator for the ring’s website, which handled around $5m in wagers and earned around $1.2m in a little over one year of operation. Saikaley also acted as an agent, meeting with sports bettors to handle cash transactions. Benny Manasseri, the group’s alleged ringleader, has yet to come to trial.

At Tuesday’s hearing – coincidentally, Saikaley’s 51st birthday – Saikaley asked media members in attendance not to make him look bad, but perhaps he should have addressed those comments to his attorney Bruce Engel. In addressing Judge Hugh Fraser, Engel tried to paint his client as an insignificant cog in the ring’s operation and offered the rather ill-advised observation that if Saikaley went to jail, he’d miss out on golf season. Prosecutor Julie Scott countered that since Saikaley’s other hobby had been breaking the law, he should be forced to practice putting in his jail cell. Saikaley was previously fined $22.5k for illegal bookmaking back in 2006 and also did a seven-year stint in jail for a 1986 shooting.