What do you do for an encore after you’ve been indicted for bribing Olympic figure skating judges? Naturally, you get indicted for running illegal poker and sports betting operations. Think of it as a kind of Russian Mafia entrepreneurial spirit, always looking for the next big thing in illegal activities.
Such is the case for (are we really going to have to type this more than once?) Alimzhan ‘Taiwanchik’ Tokhtakhounov (phew), one of 34 friendly Russkies who got to meet face-to-face with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York this week on charges of racketeering, money laundering, extortion, and running an illegal sports betting outfit, all topped off with some Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and Wire Act violations. Or, as these guys like to call it, an honest day’s work.
DoJ Makes Bank
We might have found a good way to fix the budget deficit; between Full Tilt’s Ray Bitar having to fork over $40 million in cash and assets, and now this dude (no, we’re not typing his name again) and 34 of his friendly cohorts being asked to forfeit at least $50 million, we should be on the way to economic recovery in no time flat.
Money Laundered, Courtesy of JPMorgan Chase
Here’s where the story gets pretty interesting though; because it could just be another run-of-the-mill illegal credit betting business (this one has been operating since 2006) that was set up for benefit of Russia’s most well-heeled ex-pats around the world. This Russian version of a mob loansharking business managed to move said $50 million in profits from their sports betting ops with the help of a probably not-too-bright JPMorgan Chase bank branch manager (whose career in banking appears to be on a downswing now), as well as a few shell companies in Cyprus and the U.S.
Surprisingly, cough, it’s reported that these guys were known to exert some pressure when bettors were a little late with their payments. Probably with a mallet on some knuckles or kneecaps, we’re betting. If we owed money to the Russian mob, you can bet we would go hungry before we’d be missing a payment due.
Others Indicted Also
This story gets so complex, you need a roadmap to follow it; but we’ll try to give you the Cliff’s Notes version here. Hillel “Helly” Nahmad, who was running a fancy shmancy Manhattan art gallery inside the equally chic Hotel Carlyle, is also accused of ignoring UIGEA and running some sports bets from his wealthy clientele through online gambling websites, which we all know is a DoJ no-no; sheesh. Along with Nicholas Hirsch, Nahmad is also accused of fraud for saying a piece of art was worth $300K when it was really worth bupkes. Then there’s Abe Mosseri, who took down a World Series of Poker bracelet in 2009, and Molly Bloom, who’s run high-stakes poker games for Hollywood royalty like Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon (of Rounders fame) in the past.
All we have to say is, if you end up as cellmates with this Tokhtakhounov dude, and you owe him anything, give it to him. Quickly.