Justin Smith, prominent live- and online-poker cash-game player, has received formal sentencing in his illegal gambling business case. Smith, well-known as BoostedJ in the poker world, was one of 34 defendants named in last April’s major crackdown of a high-stakes sportsbetting and gambling ring.
The gambling ring was centered in New York City and made major headlines through its alleged ties to a noted Russian mobster, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, on whose behalf tens of millions of dollars were alleged to have been laundering from various US-based live and online gambling operations. Other prominent members of the ring were former WPT winner Vadim Trincher and noted NYC art dealer Hillel Nehmad.
Smith, who lives in Los Angeles, surrendered to authorities last year after being charged with three sportsbetting counts, including participating in the operation of an illegal gambling business. Smith pled guilty to a single count last August and cooperated with authorities in the matter. In the sentencing hearing on Monday, BoostedJ received:
- Two (2) years probation;
- Three (3) months monitored home confinement;
- 200 hours community service;
- $500,000 fine (already paid).
The sentence was handed down by the case’s presiding judge, Jesse M. Furman, and is the first of the judgments rendered against any of the prominent poker players involved in the matter.
BoostedJ’s sentence is relatively lenient, indicative of his cooperation and the case being his first legal scrape. It’s similar but a bit softer than the sentence handed down to Hollywood film produce Bryan Zuriff (“Ray Donovan”), another of the case’s defendants, in late November. Zuriff faced similar charges, likewise had no criminal history, but received six months’ home confinement (instead of BoostedJ’s three), 300 hours community service, and an extra year of probation. Zuriff was also fined $500,000.
According to court documents, Smith’s involvement in the ring’s operations became known via extensive wiretaps placed against the ring’s central characters, including Vadim Trincher’s son Illya (Ilya). Smith’s sentencing memorandum indicates that he actively opened up accounts on behalf of Illya and other members of the sportsbetting ring on online sportsbetting sites such as HMS Sports and Pinnacle, and also agreed to accept large amounts of cash (sports bets) on behalf of the group while in Las Vegas.
The court documents include several transcribed chats clarifying BoostedJ’s role, which also included the sharing of an account controlled by co-defendant Abe Mosseri. Here’s one such example, which anyone with knowledge of the sportsbetting world could describe as being very typical discussion of high-stakes action:
Justin Smith, who is a professional gambler, engaged in two basic types of illegal conduct. (Def. Mem. 3-4, 7-8). First, Smith assisted co-conspirators Hillel Nahmad, a/k/a “Helly,” and Illya Trincher’s illegal gambling operation by providing them with accounts at various sports gambling websites that were operating illegally in the United States, such as pinnaclesports.com. These accounts were used by Nahmad, Trincher, and others, in part, to lay off bets that their sportsbook had received from clients. For example, during a March 15, 2012 phone call intercepted on a wiretap, co-conspirators Illya Trincher and David Aaron, an employee of Trincher’s and Nahmad’s sportsbook, discussed Smith setting up such accounts:
IT [Trincher]: Did you see that Justin sent a bunch of accounts over?
DA [Aaron]: I am sorry?
IT: Umm, Justin Smith, he emailed a bunch of accounts to HMS Sports that we can use.
DA: Ahh, no, I didn’t see that.
IT: Ahh, do you know HMS?
DA: The guy that does [redacted], this is the guy that does [redacted] accounts?
IT: Ahh yeah, [redacted], it’s under [redacted], [redacted] emailed a bunch of accounts so go through the ahhh…
DA : Which [UI / unintelligible] the account did he send it to, The Best or?
IT: HMS [UI] and then text me how many accounts total he gives, ok?
DA: Umm, he actually texted something I wanted to ask you about or he said that his accounts are now under a free roll package. Do you know about that?
IT: Yeah, there always under a free roll package only one… [UI]
DA: He made it seem like it was a new thing, ok.
IT: Yeah, alright.
DA: Alright, I’ll add these in.
IT: Yeah and text me how.
As an aside, the tale of the wiretaps is an entirely different aspect of the case that’s gone unreported in the poker media to date, and is worth a near-future visit as well.
For his part, Smith appears to have assumed a fairly active role in procuring online accounts on behalf of the Trincher ring in exchange for receiving preferential treatment as a bettor, though there’s no indication he knew of the full extent of the ring’s controlling connections, such as that to Tokhtakhounov, an alleged arms dealer under international indictment who is also wanted by US authorities for his role in fixing a Salt Lake City Winter Olympics skating event 12 years ago.
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