High-Stakes Gambling Ring Busted as FBI Raids Art Gallery in Manhattan

With fine art, gambling, gangsters, Hollywood stars, the Olympics, bribery, FBI agents and more, this story has something for everyone. On Tuesday afternoon, FBI agents raided the Helly Nahmad Gallery in Manhattan, charging its owner, Hillel Nahmad, with being involved with an international gambling and money laundering ring.

The Nahmad family has long been one of the more prominent names in the art world, with an estimated worth of over $3 billion that includes over 300 Picassos and 4,500 other works by well-known, high value artists, many of which are stored in a warehouse in Switzerland. For reasons that remain unclear, that vast treasure wasn't enough to keep the 34-year-old Hillel out of trouble.

Federal investigators have charged him with leading an international gambling ring with ties to the Russian mafia, laundering over $100 million, and fraud. Nahmad is also accused of using $1.35 million of his father's money – transferred from a Swiss bank account – to finance the gambling operation.

The indictment also named Molly Bloom, who made headlines in 2011 for setting up poker games for celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

More impressive than Bloom and her Hollywood connections, though, is Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, the alleged head of the operation's overseas division. Tokhtakhounov is reportedly a high-ranking member in the Russian mafia with close relationships to many high-powered Russian politicians, including some who are friends with Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Tokhtakhounov, according to the indictment, was a "Vory V Zakone," sometimes known as a Vor or a "thief in law," the highest level of Russian gangsters.

Between December 2011 and January 2012, Mr. Tokhtakhounov was paid $10 million for his leadership role in the organization, according to the indictment.

Tokhtakhounov was also indicted in 2002 for allegedly rigging two events at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. According to that criminal complaint, he used a member of his crime gang and a Russian skating official to somehow convince judges to award a gold medal for a Russian figure skater in exchange for the French team winning gold in ice dancing. He was never brought to the United States to stand trial.

[New York Times/Photo of Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov via Getty]