Justin Smith, a/k/a BoostedJ, to Plead Guilty in NYC Sportsbetting Case
High-stakes poker pro Justin Smith, known throughout the poker world by his “BoostedJ” online handle, will become the fifth defendant in the high-stakes poker and sportsbetting ring targeted by federal authorities in April to plead guilty in the case.
Smith will plead guilty to a single count of accepting financial instruments for unlawful internet gambling, according to court documents filed by assistant US district attorneys working out of the Eastern District of New York Department of Justice office headed by Preet Bharara.
The filing of the notification of the deal involving Smith was delayed slightly by a minor rescheduling in his next court appearance, on September 4, 2013, when the deal is expected to be approved by presiding judge Jesse M. Furman. Initial reports that Smith had reached a plea bargain with authorities was first published by the New York Daily News late last week.
According to the indictment in the case, US v. Tokhtakhounov, et al, Smith was one of several relatively minor defendants in the case who was charged with serving as a virtual runner for the sportsbetting operation, one of several interrelated gambling rings generally described by authorities as the “Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization,” for ringleaders Alimzhan “Taiwanchik” Tokhtakhounov and Vadim Trincher. Tokhtakhounov, an international fugitive, is alleged to be an important Russian organized crime figure who remains at large, while Trincher, a former WPT event in 2009, is alleged to help operate the US-based gambling operation under Tokhtakhounov’s authority.
In addition to high-stakes poker games held at Trincher’s swanky Trump Towers apartment and elsewhere, the majority of the group’s income was allegedly derived from an extensive sportsbetting operation, including the placing of bets through several offshore sites under the control of the group. It is as a minor participant in this scheme that Smith was indicted for helping place bets on behalf of others. According to the notification to the court of the plea deal, Smith “knowingly accepted one of various kinds of payment involving a financial institution as a payor or intermediary acting on behalf of or for the benefit of some other person…” in relation to the sportsbetting sites.
Smith was among the most prominent of several well known poker figures among the 34 defendants in the case; others of note include John Hanson, Bill Edler, Abe Mosseri, Trincher and Alexander Katchaloff. Despite Smith’s relatively minor role, he faced a possible five-year sentence on the three counts he was originally charged with, which included transmission of sportsbetting information and a general IGBA (Illegal Gambling Business Act) count in addition to the financial-instruments charge.
Smith is represented in the matter by attorneys from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. Akin Gump attorneys are representing several of the Taiwanchik-Trincher case’s defendants. The international firm has been involved in numerous gambling cases in recent years, and counts Caesars as an important corporate client. Prominent gambling attorney Tom Goldstein, a former Akin Gump attorney who did extensive work for PokerStars, may even have departed the firm and started his own practice over a schism in the firm’s plans for providing counsel in various gambling matters.
As for Smith, numerous reports indicate he’ll receive either probation or a short prison term, along with a fine, for his role in the sportsbetting ring. Smith’s violations were actually described amid the workings of a secondary sportsbetting ring headed by Vadim Trincher’s son Illya and noted art dealer Hillel “Helly” Nehmad, called the Nehmad-Trincher Organization by DOJ prosecutors.