FlushDraw Exclusive Taiwanchik-Trincher Update: Probation for Hirsch, Aaron

scales-justiceJonathan Hirsch and David Aaron, secondary defendants in the USAO Southern District of New York’s prosecution of a well-financed, New York City-centric poker and sportsbetting ring with alleged direct ties to the Russian Mob, have received probationary sentences for their respective roles in the operation.

Both sentences were handed down by the case’s presiding judge, Jesse M. Furman.

The leadership of the group, called the “Taiwanchik-Trincher Ring,” was named by prosecutors after Alimzhan “Taiwanchik” Tokhtakhounov, an international fugitive wanted on charges ranging from arms smuggling to the fixing of an Olympic event, and Vadim Trincher, a prominent poker player most noted for winning the 2009 WPT Foxwoods Poker Classic and its $731,079 first-place prize.

Aaron and Hirsch, two of the case’s 34 defendants, were cited as part of a secondary ring centered on Trincher’s son, Illya, and New York City art dealer Hillel “Helly” Nahmad.  Most of the day-to-day gambling and money-laundering operations that produced the federal charges were actually run through the “Nahmad-Trincher Ring,” which in turn reported (and funneled some profits) to the senior Taiwanchik-Trincher leaders.

David Aaron, who like many of the case’s more prominent defendants has a few poker-tourney results to his name, originally faced three charges in connection with the Nahmad-Trincher group’s extensive sportsbetting operations, which included both live and online betting services and was run through several sites, including HMS Sports.  Aaron was initially charged with participating in an illegal sports gambling business (an IGBA violation), the transmission of sports wagering information, and the acceptance of a financial instrument for unlawful internet gambling.

Aaron eventually pled guilty on the unlawful internet gambling count, while the other two charges were dismissed in the plea deal.  Aaron received one year’s probation, along with 100 hours of community service.  He paid no extra fine but was required to remit a $100 court-paperwork assessment.

While minor in relation to the overall case, Aaron’s deal is important in that he appeared to have operated only as a low-level bookie for the group, accepting and forwarding sports bets onto the ring’s primary operators.  In that sense, Aaron is very similar to some of the more famous poker players who faced the same three charges, including Justin “BoostedJ” Smith, Peter “Nordberg” Feldman and Bill Edler.  Smith also received probation while Feldman and Edler are among numerous defendants in the case whose fate has yet to be determined.

It’s also unknown the extent to which the USAO office will press for extra financial settlements from those well-to-do defendants with the ability to pay a hefty fine.  Smith, for example, was forced to cough up a $500,000 fine.  Meanwhile, the Southern District of New York DOJ office has bragged about the fines it’s been able to extract in the case to date, at last tally more than $68 million.

Nicholas Hirsch, in contrast, was one of the case’s few defendants who was not directly involved in the case’s gambling matters.  Instead, Hirsch and secondary ring leader Helly Nahmad were involved in arranging a money- and goods-laundering deal for an unnamed model, an acquaintance of Hirsch, who had secreted $477,000 in undeclared modeling income in an offshore Bahamas bank.

Hirsch and Nahmad agreed to launder the money for the model in exchange for a healthy slice of the money for themselves, with the two even arguing with each other in how to divvy up their extensive laundering fees … all as it was being recorded on a federal wiretap.  At one point in the taped exchange, Hirsch commented, “Easiest money I ever made,” referring to a $25,000 finder’s fee he extracted for introducing the model to Nahmad.  The money-laundering plan included having the model wire $150,000 into a Swiss bank account of Nahmad’s.

In the Feb. 25th sentencing by Judge Furman, Nicholas Hirsch received two years of probation, 300 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine.

Hirsch’s probation sentencing represented a departure by Furman from both the established sentencing guidelines and what prosecutors had sought, at a four- to 10-month term.  Hirsch pled guilty last October only to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the money-laundering scheme, while the model herself has not been named publicly in connection with the case.


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