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Teaneck Man Charged in Russian Mob-Linked Gambling Bust

High-stakes poker games allegedly involved celebrities, professional athletes and financial leaders.

Federal agents arrested men from Teaneck and Fort Lee Tuesday in a takedown of Russian organized crime that included high-stakes poker games involving celebrities, professional athletes and Wall Street moguls, according to court papers and authorities. 

The 84-page federal indictment unsealed Tuesday spanned from charges against the owner of a posh New York City art gallery to a fugitive already accused in a scheme to rig skating results at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Authorities said arrests were made in New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Los Angeles as part of the wide-ranging money laundering and gambling case that stretched to Moscow and Kiev. 

The Teaneck resident, Yugeshwar Rajkumar, and others operated an illegal poker business, according to the indictment. Rajkumar, also known as Mateo Hermatte, was charged with one count of operating an illegal gambling business. 

Also charged in the indictment with Rajkumar was Molly Bloom —dubbed the "princess of poker" —who reportedly has run exclusive games with celebrities including Leonardo Dicaprio, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. 

Authorities have not named players who took part in the alleged illicit poker games. The unnamed celebrities and wealthy gamblers are not accused as part of the criminal enterprise case. 

The Fort Lee resident, Anatoly Golubchik, who also has an address in New York City, was described in the indictment as a ringleader and faces charges including operating an illegal gambling ring, money laundering, extortion and unlawful internet gambling. 

Golubchik worked to oversee a sports betting operation and directed the laundering of "tens of millions of dollars of profits from that business," the indictment stated. 

In all, federal prosecutors in New York City charged 34 members and associates of two separate but linked organized crime syndicates, authorities said. 

One in the United States, called the Nahmad-Trincher Organization, ran a high-stakes illegal gambling ring, prosecutors alleged. Another, The Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization, operated a global sportsbook catering mostly to Russian oligarchs living in Russia, the Ukraine and across the world. 

"The Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization laundered tens of millions of dollars in proceeds from the gambling operation from Russia and the Ukraine through shell companies and bank accounts in Cyprus, and from Cyprus into the U.S.," a statement from the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office said. 

According to the indictment, the operation ran under the protection of Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, who was a top Russian gangster known as a "vor," a term translated to “thief in law” used by high-level criminals in the former Soviet Union. Tokhtakhounov, who is at large, was charged in 2002 in the alleged Olympics scheme and has links to top Russian politicians, the New York Times reported. 

Also charged in the indictment was New York City art dealer Hillel Nahmad, who Forbes reported is the "billionaire scion" of a powerful family known for dealing in high-end art. The family fortune is more than $3 billion, the report said. 

Nahmad is accused of financing the multi-billion dollar gambling ring and bilking an art buyer by charging $300,000 for a painting worth only $50,000. 

In a statement, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara described the criminal enterprises as "vast and many-tentacled" with global reach. 

"The defendants are alleged to have handled untold millions in illegal wagers placed by millionaires and billionaires, laundered millions, and in some cases are themselves multimillionaires," said New York FBI chief George Venizelos. "Crime pays only until you are arrested and prosecuted."

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