NYC Sportsbetting Prosecution: Katchaloff Plea Deal, Kirill Rapaport Sentencing
More updates from the expansive Southern District of New York gambling case against 33 defendants charged in conjunction with the operations of several interwoven sportsbetting and poker rings, which were controlled and included the funneling of proceeds to the Russian mob. In addition to Tuesday’s sentencing hearing for Edwin Ting, who helped operate the ring’s high-stakes poker games, other recent legal happenings involved defendants Alexander Katchaloff and Kirill Rapoport.
Alexander Katchaloff became the 25th of the case’s 33 defendants to reach a deal with prosecutors when his attorney signed off on a deal late last week. Katchaloff, the father of noted poker pro Eugene Katchalov, was among the case’s most minor defendants, and agreed to plead guilty to a single count of “accepting a financial instrument for unlawful internet gambling,” and pay a $100,000 fine.
Katchaloff, like his son, is a long-time friend of the Trincher clan (father Vadim and sons Ilya and Eugene), all of whom were charged in the gambling ring’s operation. Unlike his father, the younger Katchalo(v) was not involved in the ring’s activities, though he did have his own connection to the case, having pledged a New York home he owned as part of the security for Vadim Trincher’s multi-million-dollar bond.
A more serious role was that played by Kirill Rapoport, who played the role of enforcer in helping the ring collect owed gambling debts. Rapoport received a six-month sentence, as reported by several outlets late last month, and worked closely with Arthur Azen, another of the ring’s mid-level operators.
Rapoport might have received a more lenient sentence had he and his lawyer made easily debunked claims that his prosecution was based wholly on his being Russian and was ethnic-fueled. Back in August, Rapoport’s lawyer, Jay Schwitzman, made several highly dubious claims to the New York Post. Here’s how the Post reported it at that time:
After a hearing on a plea deal for Russian-born Kiril Rapoport in Manhattan federal court, the perp’s lawyer, Jay Schwitzman, said the government only went after his client “because of [Rapoport’s] ethnicity.”
Schwitzman said his client was not involved in “any extortion,” adding “unequivocally, there was no violence involved.”
“He played poker like you and I do,” he said.
Federal prosecutors introduced a copy of that story during Rapoport’s pre-sentencing activity, along with details of his activity, including his recruitment of two MMA fighters to help him collect a debt of between $35,000 and $40,000 from one losing gambler. Fortunately for the unnamed gambler, the FBI was already monitoring the ring’s activities. Here’s an excerpt from how the prosecutor’s report detailed that story:
For example, on October 5, 2012, Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) agents observed the defendant, Azen, and two mixed martial art (“MMA”) fighters go to meet with a player in Azen’s poker games, who based on earlier interceptions appeared to be delinquent in paying Azen debts from these games. Out of concern that Rapoport, Azen, and the MMA fighters might physically harm the player and in order not to reveal the ongoing FBI investigation, the FBI arranged for the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) to intervene in the meeting by claiming they had received a report of someone smoking marijuana in the area. FBI agents subsequently spoke to this poker player, who confirmed that he owed Azen $35,000 to $40,000 in poker debts.
The FBI’s investigation and surveillance of the defendant utilized wiretaps, including of October 5, 2012 conversations between Azen and Rapoport discussing going to shake down the gambler who owed Azen money. For example, at 12:11 p.m., Azen called Rapoport and told him, “Call the boys [the MMA fighters whom Rapoport brought to the shake down] and cancel everything. He [the gambler] said that he is busy until seven. He will call back and tell me where to meet him at seven or seven thirty.” Rapoport, upset, answered, “Damn motherfucker.”
Later on October 5, 201, at approximately 7:25 p.m., Rapoport, Azen, and the MMA fighters arrived outside the gambler’s apartment building. Rapoport, acting as a lookout, watched Azen and the MMA fighters approach the building. At 7:26 p.m., the gambler, understandably not wanting to go outside into the dark night with Azen, Rapoport, and their cronies, and also not wanting them to come into his apartment, texted Azen, “I am in the lobby.” Azen then entered the lobby of the building, and out of Rapoport’s view. At 7:27 p.m., Rapoport called Azen and said, “stand in front of the door. In front of the entrance. Here, in front of the entrance so I can see you from the boardwalk.” At that moment, the NYPD, at the direction of the FBI, intervened.
The Government intercepted other calls in which Azen and Rapoport discussed gambling debts. For example, on September 12, 2012, at approximately 8:41 p.m., Rapoport complained to Azen that a certain client’s debt was being calculated at such a low number. On September 26, 2012, at 1:28 p.m., Rapoport asked Azen if another identified client had paid up, and Azen responded that the client had done so.
On March 30, 2013, Rapoport was arrested for driving while intoxicated. At the time of his arrest, brass knuckles were found in his possession.
At the time of the defendant’s arrest on April 16, 2013 in this matter, brass knuckles were found in the defendant’s dresser. An inoperable, black powder gun was also found in the defendant’s apartment.
Rapoport, as with Ting, is scheduled to report to prison in March.