What do President Obama, the Russian mob, Tobey Maguire, hedge funds, Olympic figure skaters, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Bill Clinton, A-Rod, France, and the "London Whale" have in common? They're all connected (more or less) to a complicated web of money, politics, and illegal poker that may have cost one innocent man an ambassadorship.
The trouble started last week when about 30 people were busted in New York City and Los Angeles for running a lucrative gambling and money-laundering racket. The scheme involved high-stakes poker games that featured celebrities, poker pros, and high-powered Wall Streeters playing for hands of ten of thousands of dollars, which were then laundered through a high-end Manhattan art gallery. One of the defendants is a notorious Russian mobster named Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, who has been accused (among many other things) of trying to fix the 2002 Winter Olympics. (Remember the French figure skating judge and Canadian pairs who were robbed of a gold medal?) Tokhtakhounov is still on the loose and considered one of the world's most wanted fugitives.
Among the people who were arrested, however, was Molly Bloom, who was also connected to the Olympics through her brother, Jeremy—and who organized secret Hollywood poker games for celebrities like Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Matt Damon. There was also Helly Nahmad, the wealthy playboy who managed his family's $3 billion art collection out of the crooked gallery—and who plays cards with DiCaprio and Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez. (His lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, also represented DSK.) And there was Illya Trincher and his father Vadim, who is a professional poker player. The younger Trincher was considered one of the ringleaders of the $100 million operation and a well-connected gambler.