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Two plead guilty in gambling indictment involving New York art dealer

The federal case charges 34 people of being connected to an alleged Russian-American organised crime ring

Two defendants involved in a federal indictment pleaded guilty last week for their roles in high-stakes, illegal poker games. The case, filed in April, charges 34 people connected to an alleged Russian-American gambling ring with crimes including racketeering, money laundering and extortion. Among the defendants is the New York art dealer Helly Nahmad, whose gallery was raided by FBI agents.

William Barbalat pleaded guilty on 14 August “to traveling in interstate commerce in aid of an unlawful activity, the operation of an illegal poker game,” according to the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. Kirill Rapoport, who was accused in the April indictment of using “violence and threats of violence to collect sports and poker gambling debts from gamblers”, pleaded guilty on 16 August of “conducting an illegal gambling business, an illegal poker game”.

The Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said that “with their pleas, we move closer to holding to account all those who participated in this wide-ranging network of criminal conduct linked to organised crime”.

Barbalat and Rapoport each face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and three years of supervised release. As part of their plea agreements, Barbalat agreed to forfeit $150,000 and Rapoport $250,000 to the United States. Sentencing is scheduled for 16 and 18 December respectively.

Bryan Zuriff was the first defendant in the indictment to enter a guilty plea, on 26 July, and his sentencing is due on 25 November.

Benjamin Brafman, one of Helly Nahmad’s lawyers, says that the art dealer’s “not guilty” plea still stands.

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