The photo, published in the New York Post last year shortly after the arrest of Hillel “Helly” Nahmad, shows him wearing a cap with a playing card on it and sitting courtside next to his high-powered defense attorney, Benjamin Brafman. Spike Lee is a seat away.
The scene suggests that Nahmad was “making light of the seriousness of the gambling charges,” prosecutors wrote in submissions in advance of Nahmad’s sentencing Wednesday afternoon in federal court in Manhattan. They are seeking a minimum of a year behind bars for Nahmad.
In its papers, the defense conceded that Nahmad was an “inveterate gambler” who began betting on the Knicks — and mostly losing — at age 14. But the papers sought to portray him as a minor player in the gambling scheme, and as an otherwise law-abiding and widely respected art dealer who deserves only probation instead of prison time.
Nahmad, 35, pleaded guilty late last year to charges he helped run an illegal sports betting business that was exposed by an investigation of a sprawling scheme by Russian-American organized crime enterprises. He was among more than 30 people named in indictments alleging a plot to launder at least $100 million in illegal gambling proceeds through hundreds of bank accounts and shell companies in Cyprus and the United States.
The gambling ring catered mostly to super-rich bettors in Russia. But it also had tentacles in New York City, where it ran illegal card games that attracted professional athletes, film stars and business executives, prosecutors said. Some of the defendants are professional poker players.
Nahmad comes from an art-dealing clan whose collection includes 300 Picassos worth $900 million, according to Forbes. He also is known for socializing with Hollywood luminaries like Leonardo DiCaprio.
Prosecutors had alleged that, along with laundering tens of millions of dollars, Nahmad committed fraud by trying to sell a piece of art for $300,000 that was worth at least $50,000 less. He was required to turn over the painting to the government as part of a $6.4 million judgment.
So far, 28 people have pleaded guilty.
Follow Hays on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APtomhays
# # #
Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE