Poker News

Rather than taking her chances in the court system, the only woman charged in the federal indictment regarding the massive Russian gambling ring blown apart earlier this year has decided to enter a guilty plea.

Molly Bloom, the former poker game hostess that became known in tabloid news as the “Poker Princess,” entered a guilty plea in a Manhattan federal court yesterday for her involvement in the case. In entering her plea, Bloom (who had pled not guilty in her first appearance in court) admitted that she moved her private poker games – which allegedly involved such notable celebrities as Matt Damon, Tobey Maguire, baseball player Alex Rodriguez and Wall Street millionaires – from Los Angeles to New York in 2010. Those games, which allegedly fell under the operation of the Russian organized crime syndicate, ran up until they were busted by the U. S. Department of Justice in April of this year.

In pleading guilty to a charge of illegal gambling, Bloom took off the table the potential to head to jail for up to five years. In exchange for her guilty plea, federal investigators have stated that Bloom will receive somewhere up to six months in jail or potentially be released on probation. Bloom also will have to part with $250,000, a fine imposed for her role in the case.

Bloom was upfront when facing federal Judge Jesse Furman in resolving her case. Bloom admitted to Judge Furman that she knew she was breaking some laws but, in her opinion, “I thought I was committing a misdemeanor.” The part where Bloom broke the laws, according to court documents, was in taking a “rake” on the tables, a violation of the law in pretty much every state in the U. S. “The conductors of the game, including me, took (that) rake,” Bloom stated to Judge Furman.

“The Poker Princess” is just the latest in a string of guilty pleas that have been entered in this case. Of the 34 people that were indicted back in April, Bloom is the eighth that has reached a plea deal with prosecutors. Among those who have pled guilty to charges stemming from the indictment are two men who were the supposed “ringleaders” of the operation.

Last month, poker professional Vadim Trincher and art dealer Hillel “Helly” Nahmad pled guilty to a variety of charges. Trincher admitted to running a sports book from his Trump Tower condo in New York City and then shipping the funds from that operation around the world. It is expected that Trincher, via his plea deal, could receive up to 27 months in jail. Nahmad, facing a maximum of 92 years in prison, cut his deal with the feds for operating a gambling business that could earn him up to five years in prison.

In September, poker pro Justin ‘BoostedJ’ Smith and Edwin Ting pled guilty to their charges in the case. Smith pled guilty to taking payments for internet gambling and Ting confessed to operating a gambling business. Both could face up to five years in prison when their sentences are handed down.

In August, William Barbalat and Kirill Rapoport pled guilty to traveling in interstate commerce in aid of an unlawful activity (a poker game) and conducting an illegal gambling business. They face the potential for the same five years in prison that others in the case have the possibility of receiving. Finally, in July of this year, Hollywood producer Bryan Zuriff pled guilty to the acceptance of financial instruments (money) for unlawful internet gambling.

All of those who have meted out a plea deal have also parted with a sizeable chunk of money. Fines in the case total nearly $10 million.

The alleged third “ringleader” has, as of yet, not been apprehended and it is likely that he won’t. Alimzhan “Taiwanchik” Tokhtakhounov is supposedly living in the open in Moscow, Russia, and it is unlikely that Russian officials would honor any attempt at extradition by U. S. officials regarding the case. Tokhtakhounov is allegedly a notorious member of the Russian organized crime syndicate and currently is listed on Interpol’s “Wanted Persons” list for his alleged crimes in the U. S. Those crimes include wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery and violations of the Travel Act.

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