The prosecution of prominent online poker pro Justin Smith for his minor role in a large New York City-based sportsbetting and gambling ring with ties to alleged Russian mobsters has concluded with Smith receiving extended probation, including home monitoring and community service.
In the sentencing hearing on Monday for Smith, well known as “BoostedJ” in the poker community, presiding judge Jesse M. Furman sentenced Smith to two years probation, but with the special condition of an initial three-month period of home confinement, typically but not necessarily monitored by electronic ankle bracelet. Smith was also ordered to perform 200 hours of community service following the completion of his home confinement term. Smith had previously agreed to pay a fine of $500,000 as part of his sentencing. It is believed Smith will serve his home confinement in his LA-area residence.
Smith’s sentence also includes a couple of very typical added conditions, such as a prohibition on firearms and submission for DNA testing, and represents a slight down tick from what had been requested by the office of lead SDNY Preet Bharara, which had sought a sentence of six to 12 months. Smith may have posted a cryptic Twitter comment referring to the probation he received when he wrote, on Wednesday, “Was granted the birthday wish I was hoping for.”
According to the case’s sentencing memorandum, Smith assisted with the online sportsbetting operation by creating numerous online accounts for the ring’s leaders, including Illya Trincher and Hillel “Helly” Nehmad, including several at the now-defunct HMS Sports, along with one or more at PinnacleSports. Smith moved six-figure sums for both sportsbetting and poker through several of these accounts. The memorandum, which includes redacted but length conversations obtained by wiretap, includes mention of an account owned by fellow defendant and poker pro Abe Mosseri that was also used by Smith, plus a so-called “Mexican account” that was operated jointly by Smith and Illya Trincher.
The judgment is one of the first in the extended case of U.S. v Tokhtakhounov et al, in which 34 defendants were charged with various roles in the operation of a prominent sportsbetting and gambling ring. Prominent members included at-large, indicted Russian arms dealer Alimzhan “Taiwanchik” Tokhtakhounov, former WPT event winner Vadim Trincher and prominent New York art dealer Nehmad. All told, the ring is alleged to have laundered tens of millions of dollars in gambling proceeds through its live and online operations.
Smith was charged with three relatively small offenses as one of the case’s 34 defendants, originally facing charges of participating in an illegal sports gambling business, the transmission of sports wagering information (a Wire Act violation), and the acceptance of a financial instrument for unlawful internet gambling. Smith, who allegedly acepted and placed bets on behalf of his friends and himself through online sites maintained by the gambling ring’s bosses, eventually pled guilty to a single count, the illegal sports gambling business charge, with the other two counts being dismissed.
Smith was believed to have cooperated with authorities following his April 2013 arrest and reached an agreement with prosecutors in August, entering a formal guilty plea soon after. BoostedJ becomes the first of the case’s ten or so defendants with prominent poker connections to be formally sentenced, and his term may be an indicator of what likely awaits co-defendants such as fellow poker pros Bill Edler and Peter “Nordberg” Feldman, who were charged with the same three sportsbetting counts. Neither Edler nor Feldman has yet to agree to a plea deal with DOJ Southern District of New York prosecutors.
Smith, a prominent cash-game pro who has also notched over $2.1 in career tournament earnings, is one of 24 defendants in the case who have reached deals to date. Another of the early-pleading defendants, Edwin Ting, was also scheduled for a sentencing hearing this week. Ting’s hearing, however, was pushed back to January 21st due to a scheduling conflict with the SDNY prosecutor dealing specifically with Ting’s case and charges.