Feds Seek 12 to 18 Months for Hillel Nahmad in Trincher Ring Sportsbetting Sentencing
Federal prosecutors are seeking a 12-to-18-month sentence for alleged sportsbetting operator Hillel “Helly” Nahmad, one of 34 defendants arrested last year in a sweeping indictment that took down a New York-based sportsbetting and gambling ring with alleged ties to Russian organized crime figures.
Nahmad, the son of one of the world’s most famous art dealers, Davide Nahmad, operates the swanky Helly Nahmad Gallery on New York City’s Madison Avenue. Nahmad was alleged to have helped operate a secondary ring in the large sportbetting/gambling/poker operation, which included both live and online gambling services.
Among the case’s defendants are about a dozen well-known poker players, including Nahmad’s alleged partner in one of three interrelated groups, Illya Trincher. Federal prosecutors dubbed this ring the “Trincher-Nehmad Organization,” and have alleged that while Nahmad took only a part-time role in its operation, alongside his art-gallery responsibilities, he was one of the primary financing sources for the group, which maintained an online presence at HMSSports.com.
lllya Trincher’s father, Vadim Trincher, is another of the case’s prominent defendants, and a well-known East Coast poker player with a WPT title on his resume. Trincher was alleged to be one of the leaders of another of the rings, the so-called Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization, with the “Taiwanchik” nickname referring to Akim “Taiwanchik” Tokhtakhounov, an alleged international arms smuggler who also remains a fugitive from US justice on charges of fixing a Salt Lake City Winter Olympics event, which famously ended in Olympic judges awarding two sets of gold medals in the Olympic pairs skating event.
All three Trinchers, Vadim and his sons Illya and Eugene (the latter a lesser defendant), have previously reached plea deals with authorities in the case. The Trinchers’ involvement also included famed high-stakes held at Vadim Trincher’s $6 million Trump Towers apartment, which drew an A-list of poker, business and celebrity participants.
Helly Nahmad is also accepting a plea deal, with the formal sentencing due to take place on April 30th. Nahmad’s backstory is one of the case’s most interesting, with defense and prosecution attorneys both filing pre-sentencing briefs within the last two weeks.
Nahmad’s counsel, in his defense, has filed a 32-page brief with an appendix of more than 160 pages, all of which portray’s backing and gambling history as the result of his family’s long social acceptance of gambling — Helly’s father, Davide, was once a world backgammon champion.
As for Helly, his lawyers depict his involvement as that of a gambler slowly going father astray. “What began as a group of friends betting on sports events crossed the line into illegal activity,” the defense brief states. “That conduct has caused lasting damage to Helly’s reputation, his family, and the art business to which he has dedicated himself for the past 15 years.”
Later, the defense submission describes how the sportsbetting group actually formed, with former losing sportsbetter Nahmad becoming acquainted with betting sharp Noah Siegel (another defendant in the case), and helping to fund large-scale bets by Siegel, to the profit of both. Soon after, Illya Trincher joined the pair, helping find Siegel more sites to which to wager, as he was successful enough that a lot of bookies and sites didn’t want Siegel’s action. From the there the business grew over time, with others such as co-defendant Michael Sall and Illya’s father Vadim joining in.
The defense goes so far as to claim that Nahmad never saw himself as a bookmaker, nor the group’s operations as a sportsbetting business, a claim specifically countermanded in the prosecutor’s subsequent submission, which includes a four-page submission from Nahmad’s own ledgers showing bets taken on a specific event. That list refers to many other well-known poker players who aren’t part of the case, since they were bettors only; the ledger shows names or nicknames and the amount bet on that specific event.
The Nahmad defense brief concludes by asking for leniency and a sentence of probation and community service with no jail time. Nahmad and his attorneys have even pitched the idea of Nahmad expanding an “art for kids” program of his, called ArtWorks, which is danger of collapsing due to lack of funding. Nahmad’s counsel proposes that Nahmad assume the $100,000 cost needed to keep the program — which buses schoolkids to museums on field trips to learn about fine art — as part of his community service.
Per the plea deal, Nahmad will also be forfeiting $6.4 million and a French post-Impression painting valued at up to $250,000 which also figured into the case in a strange side tale, involving the efforts of Nahmad and co-defendant Nicholas Hirsch to help a modeling acquaintance launder $477,000 in unreported income, with considerable profit for themselves.
While the defense brief waxes long — very long — on Nahmad’s purported honesty and integrity, the subsequent prosecution brief attacks those very same points, while arguing for the standard guidelines-range sentence of 12 to 18 months. The presiding judge actually determines the length of the sentence, which could range from the probation Nahmad’s defense seeks to something even longer than the 18 months sought by prosecutors.
Prosecutors have introduced two other excerpts, culled from months of wiretaps, that portray Nahmad as not quite the pillar of honesty and integrity his defense counsel claims.
In one, a follow-up to the money-laundering arangement involving Hirsch and the unnamed model, the feds offered this exchange, in part (emphasis by prosecutors):
… Hirsch: Get the fuck out of here, dude.
Nahmad: Yo, you’re fucking crazy, bro, yo you live on planet Mars, mother fucker, [UI]. What did you make two phone calls?
Hirsch: Easiest money I ever made.
Nahmad: I gotta fucking go and get fucking. You see Nicky, to every rich guy besides innovators, like Jobs or Gates, is a huge scumbag behind that plan. People make money by thinking this way, because . . .
Nahmad: The system is designed for some sort of equality services for you know, there’s some sort of equality. So the only way to create inequality is to circumvent the system and the only way to circumvent the system is to cheat and lie . . . .
Another exchange, between Nahmad and co-defendant Brian Zuriff, a film producer involved in the West Coast poker games that were also part of the group’s activities, bolsters the prosecutions contention that Nahmad was active in booking bets on his own, to the point of even excluding Trincher from some of the action.
This exchange involves a mega-rich playboy sneaking hundreds of thousands of bets on NBA games while in rehab. The bettor, a non-defendant, isn’t named in the prosecution brief:
For example, during phone calls that were intercepted on April 27, 2013, Zuriff and Nahmad discussed booking bets from an individual who had just got out of a rehabilitation clinic and trying to take advantage of him:
Nahmad: Remember my guy [Client-12] — you can’t repeat this to anyone — he just got out of rehab. He wants to bet on all the NBA series, prices and maybe some futures. He doesn’t want to bet on the computer because he is superstitious.
Zuriff: I’ll get a phone account for ya.
Nahmad: I don’t mind going 50/50 with you. I’m doing this without Illya [Trincher] and Noah [Siegel]. I’m doing it completely on my own because I want to make some money. He wants to bet hundreds [of thousands of dollars].
Zuriff: I’ll take 25% of it.
Nahmad: He wants to bet hundreds of it on the series prices and he is going to try to bet hundreds on the futures. I’m going to tell him the most I can lose on a future is 200k. Say one pays out 300k, but he makes four bets, he can’t automatically win 300k.
Zuriff: Tell me, what do you need?
Nahmad: He just called me this morning whispering from rehab. He needs to guarantee them to me again, so we can do it.
Zuriff: I got two good options.
Nahmad: Call me back because I have to take this call. . . .
Nahmad: I don’t think you get it. Hold on a second; I’m going to step outside my office. What I want you to understand, we knock this guy off for one million bucks. His dad is a multi-billionaire. He himself had to have his brother bail him out without tapping into his trust, without his dad finding out.
Other such examples of Nahmad having more activity and responsibility in the group’s operations abound, which is why the prosecution argues against a probation-only sentence, despite the hefty fine already agreed to by both sides. In another week, presiding judge Jesse M. Furman will rule in Nahmad’s case.