Impressions from the Russian Sports Betting Arraignment
The high-stakes poker pros caught up in the case against a Russian mob-backed sports betting syndicate, announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York this past Tuesday, were arraigned in federal court yesterday. You can read about the substance of the proceedings over at BLUFF.
With 33 defendants present, Judge Jesse Furman’s court was crawling with lawyers. There were easily 50 lawyers in the room. Several were high-powered and/or had previous connections to poker legal cases. John “Hanson” Jarecki is being represented by former AUSA Michael Gilbert of the Dechert firm. Ilya Trincher retained Las Vegas star attorney David Chesnoff, who represented Phil Ivey in Ivey’s 2011 lawsuit against Full Tilt, Shawn Sheikhan in a 2007 deportation proceedings, Doyle Brunson in a 2005 case brought by the SEC, and just about every A-List celebrity who has run into trouble with Las Vegas law enforcement personnel in the last 10 years.
Also spotted in the room, sitting with Vadim Trincher’s wife, was Ray Bitar’s legal team from the Paul Weiss firm, Jack Baughman, Roberto Finzi and Steve “stevesbets” Jacobs. Although Paul Weiss hasn’t yet formally been retained by Vadim, that seems likely to happen soon.
Vadim, deemed a flight risk by prosecutors, is the only defendant who was denied bail during bail hearings on Tuesday.
At the arraignment, prosecutors gave Judge Furman a synopsis of the case. They said that the poker pros “assisted” Illya Trincher’s U.S-facing sports gambling operation but did not elaborate. We’ll have to wait for further details, but it seems likely that they were touts and runners, as described by Haley Hintze for FlushDraw on Thursday.
The prosecutors also told Judge Furman that they “certainly think it’s possible” that more defendants could be added to the case in the future and/or that more charges could be filed against the existing defendants. New defendants might include some MMA fighters; according to GalleristNY, the prosecution alleged at bail hearings on Tuesday that the syndicate used MMA fighters to collect gambling debts, with one collection becoming so threatening that FBI agents who were monitoring the incident called in uniformed NYPD officers to protect the debtor.
While several of the poker defendants (notably Eddie Ting, Justin Smith and Molly Bloom) took the arraignment quite seriously, going so far as to show up to court in suits, others did not. Illya Trincher was dressed in a ratty t-shirt and bright blue sneakers; Jarecki seemed amused by the whole process. He was seen laughing a few times and had a smirk planted on his face for most of the proceeding, as if he was the only one who was in on some big joke.
Among the poker pros, Jarecki faces the most serious charges. The Feds have hit him with three conspiracy charges (RICO, extortion and money laundering), two violations of the UIGEA, and violations of RICO, IGBA and the Wire Act. He’s currently looking at a maximum of 92 years in prison and a $2 million fine, a significantly steeper penalty than most of the other poker pros, who, with the exception of the Trinchers, are typically facing a maximum of 10 years in prison.