New York gallery owner and socialite Hillel “Helly” Nahmad has pled guilty to charges of operating an illegal gambling ring. He has agreed to forfeit over $6.4 million in cash and a painting worth several hundred thousand dollars.
Nahmad’s Upper East Side gallery, known for exhibitions of blue-chip works by artists such as Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon, was raided by federal agents in April. Charges were brought against Nahmad and 33 of his alleged associates, including Russian crime boss Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov and poker player Illya Trincher. Among the crimes Nahmad stood accused of were racketeering, conspiracy and money laundering. The gambling outfit is said to have involved celebrities and billionaires willing to wager hundreds of thousands of dollars on poker games and the outcomes of sporting events, and was bankrolled in large part by the Nahmad gallery.
In his statement to the judge, Nahmad described the widespread gambling network as a “group of friends betting on sports events” that had “crossed the line.” If Nahmad were to have gone to trial, he would have faced a potential maximum sentence of 92 years behind bars. Thirteen of his fellow defendants have already pled guilty, and will pay $9 million in restitution, according to the New York Times.
Nahmad, age 35, is a member of a wealthy, influential family of art collectors and dealers. His father, David, began collecting art as a teenager with his older brothers, Giuseppe, or “Joe” (who died last year), and Ezra. The siblings’ collective holdings, predominantly in 19th- and 20th-century art, are estimated to have a net worth of $3 billion. The brothers and their wives and children have long been a fixture at auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s.