(Reuters) — Hillel “Helly” Nahmad, a prominent New York art dealer, was sentenced on Wednesday to one year and a day in federal prison for running an illegal high-stakes gambling ring that catered to movie stars, professional athletes and bank executives.
Nahmad, 35, the son of a billionaire art dealer from Europe, had pleaded guilty to operating an illegal gambling business as part of a deal in which he acknowledged he led the ring, financed it and was entitled to a substantial share of its profits.
The ring included A-list celebrities like Leonardo DiCarprio and baseball star Alex Rodriguez.
In sending him to prison, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman rejected Nahmad’s proposal to allow him to remain free and instead pay $100,000 a year to fund a program in which the convicted felon would teach underprivileged children about art.
“There is only one way for Mr. Nahmad to understand his actions have consequences … and that is to send him to prison,” the judge said at the sentencing, in Manhattan federal court.
Nahmad claimed that betting on the New York Knicks led to his gambling addiction, but undercut his own case by attending a Knicks game while awaiting sentencing.
The judge said that amounted to thumbing his nose at the court — as well as throwing away time and money on a “bad” team.
“The record here before me reveals that the defendant has contempt for the law — and that he believes the rules apply to everyone else,” Furman said, according to the New York Post
The judge questioned the sincerity of Nahmad’s request, noting that he had ample time to show intent by actions over the past year.
“Doing good works before sentencing is as low-hanging fruit as it comes and he didn’t pick it,” the judge said. “It kind of baffles me, to be completely honest.”
Prosecutors had requested a prison sentence of 12 to 18 months.
Nahmad said he felt ashamed of his illegal actions and would never forgive himself.
“I have learned a very, very hard, humiliating lesson,” he told the court before being sentenced.
Nahmad’s sentence also includes a $30,000 fine, 300 hours of community service and three years of supervised release. As part of the plea deal, Nahmad had already agreed to forfeit $6.4 million and all rights to a painting by Raoul Dufy, “Carnaval a Nice, 1937,” worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, which prosecutor said was used in a scheme to conceal money.
Nahmad was one of 34 accused members of the gambling enterprise who were charged last year with crimes including racketeering, money laundering, extortion and gambling offenses. So far 28 have pleaded guilty, including Anatoly Golubchik and Vadim Trincher, who this week were each sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to forfeit $20 million in cash, investments and real estate property.
In announcing a guilty plea by Trincher on Nov. 15, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement that Trincher and Nahmad had together run the gambling ring.