Wealthy Manhattan art dealer and notorious playboy Hillel “Helly” Nahmad pleaded guilty on Monday to being a major player in a $100 million high-stakes international gambling ring that drew A-list celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Alex Rodriguez.
Nahmad, 35, the scion of a powerful art family worth $3 billion, copped his plea to a federal gambling charges after the government agreed to drop racketeering, money laundering and fraud charges he was also facing.
He had been indicted in April with 33 others, includingreputed Russian mobsters and notorious Hollywood “poker madam” Molly Bloom. Bloom, the gorgeous sister of Olympic skier Jeremy Bloom, is known for hosting under-the–radar games for celebrity poker players such as DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire.
“Judge, this all started as a group of friends betting on sports events, but I recognize I crossed the line, and I apologize to the court and my family,” Nahmad told Manhattan federal Judge Jesse Furman.
“ … It started out as a hobby, Unfortunately, it became a business,” he added.
Under the plea deal cut with the feds, Nahmad faces 12 to 18 months in prison, but his lawyers said they’d argue at sentencing on March 16 that he shouldn’t get jail time – only probation – because he has a clean record.
Nahmad – the 14th defendant to cop a plea in the case — has also agreed to fork over $6.4 million in restitution and the rights to the 1937 painting Carnaval à Nice by American artist Raoul Dufy.
Prosecutors had alleged that, besides laundering tens of millions of dollars, Nahmad committed fraud by trying to sell the piece of art for $300,000 when it was worth least $50,000 less.
He also wired millions of dollars from his father’s bank account in Switzerland to a U.S. bank account to help finance the gambling, prosecutor said.
Nahmad and another defendant Illya Trincher ran a high-stakes illegal gambling business that catered primarily to millionaire and billionaire clients, the feds say. Their business relied on several online illegal gambling websites to generate tens of millions of dollars of sports bets since 2012.
Nahmad’s lawyers said the guilty plea won’t impact operations at the Helly Nahmad Gallery at the Carlyle Hotel— a seller of exquisite works by Chagall, Warhol and other top artists.