Poker Pros Arraigned in Russian Sports Betting Case

Justin Smith

Justin “BoostedJ” Smith is charged as part of an illegal gambling ring linked to the Russian mob.

Former World Poker Tour champions Vadim Trincher and Justin “BoostedJ” Smith, former World Series of Poker bracelet winners Bill Edler and Abe Mosseri, and a host of other high-stakes poker pros were back in federal court today for their arraignments on charges that they were part of an illegal gambling syndicate linked to the Russian mob.

Others with connections to the high-stakes poker world who were swept up in raids this past Tuesday and appeared in court today include Trincher’s sons Illya and Eugene; two-time WSOP Circuit winner Peter “Nordberg” Feldman; Hollywood home game facilitator Molly Bloom; long-time NYC underground poker regulars Eddie Ting and John “Hanson” Jarecki; and Borgata regulars Yugeshwar Rajkumar and Joe Mancuso.

While today’s arraignment proceeding did not produce any surprises – all defendants entered a plea of not guilty to all charges – lawyers for the U.S. Attorney’s Office did reveal some intriguing new details about the case. They described a staggering amount of discovery materials collected during the course of the multi-agency investigation against the syndicate, including:

  • wiretaps on nine different cell phones for as long as four months, resulting in upwards of 25,000 intercepted calls;
  • email records seized pursuant to court-ordered warrants;
  • computers and other electronic devices recovered as defendants were arrested; and
  • financial records, including tax returns and bank statements for roughly 300 bank accounts.

Prosecutors also told Judge Furman that more defendants could be named to the case in the future and additional charges could be filed against the existing defendants.

“We certainly think it’s possible,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Harris Fischman. “Many aspects of our investigation are ongoing.”

The case will now proceed to discovery. Judge Furman indicated his desire to keep things on track despite the unwieldy number of defendants and the voluminous documents collected by federal prosecutors. He set a trial date of June 9, 2014.

“This is a firm date,” he told the assemblage. “Everyone here should assume we will go to trial on that date.”

The government is alleging that the defendants were part of a vast illegal gambling syndicate, backed by the Russian mob, that handled hundreds of millions of dollars worth of sports bets for millionaire clientele in the U.S. and in Eastern Europe.  The syndicate also is believed to have operated a string of illegal poker clubs in New York City. Charges for most defendants include violations of IGBA and the UIGEA. Some also have been charged with violating the Travel Act and the Wire Act and with racketeering, extortion and money laundering.

Of the 34 defendants already named in the case, only “Vor” Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov – believed by the government to be an Eastern European criminal underworld kingpin – remains at large. Almost all of the others have already posted bail. Edler, who reportedly had been driving cross country as the initial arrests were made Tuesday morning, turned himself in to federal authorities in New York this morning and was expected to post before the end of the day.

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Kevin McGrady

Legislative and Politics Beat Writer: Kevin McGrady practiced corporate law in New York City for eight years before moving to Las Vegas in 2008 to join the gaming industry. Kevin is a graduate of New York University and Columbia University School of Law.
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