Former 2009 World Poker Tour winner Vadim Trincher was sentenced to five years in prison today for his prominent role in a major gambling ring that was centered in New York City and that also utilized offshore Internet sportsbetting sites as part of a complex operation, with direct links to members of Russian organized-crime groups.
Another major defendant in the case, Anatoly Golubchik, also received a five-year sentence yesterday. Both men were sentenced by US District judge Jesse M. Furman, who has presided over the case since 34 defendants were indicted last April. Both Trincher and Golubchik were also subject to massive fines and forfeitures amounting to more than $20 million each, more than half of the total of $68 million in cash and assets forfeited to the federal authorities by the case’s defendants to date.
The five-year terms for Trincher and Golubchik are the stiffest sentences handed down in the case to date, which is formally known as U.S. v. Alimzhan Tokhtakounov, et al. Tokhtakhounov, also known as “Taiwanchik” and “Akim” is an alleged Russian organized-crime boss who has been sought by United States authorities on various charges since the late ’90s.
Tokhtakhounov is the only one of this case’s 34 defendants who has not been brought before a US court in connection with the charges, remaining in Russia. Trincher and Golubchik, who were alleged to be two of the leaders of the US-based part of the operation, were alleged by prosecutors to have communicated directly with “Taiwanchik,” ultimately laundering more that $100 million in gambling proeeds — largely from live and online sportsbook operations, including the now-shuttered HMSSports site.
That money laundering, utilizing bank accounts and business entities controlled by Trincher, Golubchik and others, “laundered approximately $100 million in proceeds from their gambling operation in Russia and Ukraine through shell companies and bank accounts in Cyprus.” The operation ran from at least 2006 through 2012, when authorities began to close in.
According to a USAO press release, approximately $50 million of the $100 million in gambling proceeds was subsequently sent from Cyprus back into the United States, less a hefty $10 million or so that went to Tokhtakhounov for his oversight and criminal protection; Tokhtakhounov has been described as a top-level “friend-in-law” within the Russian Mob with the authority to protect and define criminal operations and territories.
The sentences handed down to Trincher and Golubchik exceeded those prescribed by standard sentencing guidelines, which are not binding upon a case’s presiding judge. The large-scale financial transactions and the multiple links to Tokhtakhounov likely weighed into Judge Furman’s decision.
Trincher is among about a dozen of the case’s 34 defendants with strong poker ties. Trincher’s sons Illya and Eugene have also reached plea deals with authorities, while other poker figures connected to the case include John Hanson (real name John Jarecki), Abe Mosseri, Bill Edler, Peter “Nordberg” Feldman, Justin “BoostedJ” Smith, Michael Sall, and even the tabloid-fodder “Hollywood Poker Prncess,” Molly Bloom.
Most of the case’s defendants have already pled out in the case, receiving shorter sentences or probation along with significant fines. Most of the other poker names associated the case became ensnared after helping to place bets for themselves and others through the ring’s primary members, thus serving as lower-level bookies. A document filed as part of a sentencing submission for another prominent defendant, Hillel “Helly” Nahmad, shows a ledger with dozens of easily identifiable nicknames of well-known poker players, who were among the most frequent customers of the operation.
Nahmad, another of the case’s central figures, was also scheduled for sentencing later today. Others among the defendants with poker connections will hear their case decisions from Judge Furman next month.