Reality trumps fiction in latest Hollywood scandal
The executive producer and a guiding light of Showtime's hit new series Ray Donovan has pleaded guilty in a huge scandal involving big names. It would seem Bryan Zuriff, credited with championing the series about a crooked Hollywood fixer, knows his demimonde material a little too well.
Nellie Andreeva of Deadline.com writes:
Days after Showtime picked up his freshman drama for a second season, the series' executive producer Bryan Zuriff has pleaded guilty to running an illegal gambling operation. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement today from New York that Zuriff faces up to five years in prison and has agreed to forfeit $500,000 as part of his plea deal, according to the statement. "Bryan Zuriff spanned the coasts with his crimes, by operating his own illegal gambling enterprise in Los Angeles, and helping to operate a vast illegal gambling enterprise in New York," Bharara said. "With his plea, he becomes the first defendant, but not the last, to be convicted in this sprawling script of criminal conduct."
The cast of characters and locations assembled in this scandal could make for a blockbuster tale. Involved are:
Art dealer Hillel Nahmad in the Carlyle Hotel
Molly Bloom, sister of Philadelphia Eagles pro Jeremy Bloom
The indictment lists two gambling operations with alleged ties to the Russian-American mob that catered to multi-millionaires and billionaires in the U.S., Russia, and the Ukraine. One of them is alleged to have laundered tens of millions of dollars from Russia and the Ukraine through Cyprus and into the U.S., while the other is described as a high-stakes illegal gambling business catering to the super-rich.
Also among the 34 charged is "poker princess" Molly Bloom, known as the "event planner" that organized the high-stakes poker games for top Hollywood types, including Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio in a scheme that unraveled in 2011. Bloom is among three accused of operating and promoting high stakes poker rooms around New York City. And Hillel "Helly" Nahmad, scion of one of the richest and most powerful art-dealing families in the world, is charged with financing the illegal gambling operation. His famous Helly Nahmad Gallery on Madison Avenue, a longtime tenant of the luxury Carlyle Hotel, was raided by the Feds this morning. Leading the list of indicted is suspected former Soviet Union mafia bigwig Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov who already has an outstanding arrest warrant and has been among World's 10 most wanted white-collar fugitives.
More about Ms. Molly Bloom from Dylan Howard of radaronline:
According to Star, on newsstands now, the "poker madam" organized everything from the felt-top tables presided over by professional dealers, who she employed, to the food, booze, guest list - and for some - women. (snip)
Bloom's role coordinating the secret - and illegal - gambling ring was exposed after one of the players she attracted to the no-limit Texas Hold 'em games, which had a buy-in of $100,000, was arrested after feds cracked his $25 million Ponzi scheme.
An FBI investigation into Brad Ruderman, the CEO of Ruderman Capital Partners, uncovered how he used at least $5 million of investor money to pay off his monster gambling debts to some of Hollywood's elite, including Spider-Man star Maguire.
Whenever you have big sums of money being laundered internationally, the intrigue reaches a new level. This is the shadow world of criminal cash - untold billions of it -- sloshing around the world's economy, invisibly pulling strings, corrupting, and influencing things. This case offers a peek at what's going on beneath the veneer. So far it is limited to the gossip media. Stay tuned.
Hat tip: Michael Geer