Kirill Rapoport, one of those arrested for being involved in an illegal gambling outfit worth $100 million, pleaded guilty to running illegal poker events in Manhattan. Russian criminals are also involved in this gambling operation.

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According to federal prosecutors, Rapoport took the assistance of mixed martial arts fighters to force losers into returning their poker debts. They have requested the judge to sentence the Brooklyn-based Rapoport to a minimum prison term of six months.

The 41-year-old Rapoport worked in collaboration with 44-year-old Arthur Azen of Staten Island. He has pleaded guilty not only to running illegal poker games, but also money laundering and extorting funds from poker debtors.

In a pre-sentence letter written to Jesse Furman, the Manhattan federal judge, prosecutors said, “On Oct 5, 2012, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents observed the defendant, Azen, and two mixed martial arts fighters go to meet with a player in Azen’s poker games, who based on earlier interceptions appeared to be delinquent in playing Azen’s debts. Out of concern that Rapoport, Azen, and the MMA fighters might physically harm the player and in order not to reveal the ongoing FBI investigation, the FBI arranged for the New York City Police Department to intervene in the meeting by claiming they had received a report of someone smoking marijuana in the area.”

The poker player later told the FBI that he had to pay a poker debt of as much as $40,000 to Azen. Rapoport could get as many as five years in jail, and prosecutors say that he should get at least six months to one year in prison.

Referring to the defendant’s activities as “serious,” federal prosecutors said in their pre-sentencing letter than Rapoport was neither a bartender nor a dealer, but worked to ensure that those who took part in the illegal poker games organized by Azen repaid their debts. In other words, he had a small, but dangerous role to play in a major illegal gambling operation that catered to celebrities and wealthy players.

Jay Schwitzman, Rapoport’s lawyer, says that the feds “targeted him because of his ethnicity” and that what he did was “hardly different from what you and I do when we play poker.”

Prosecutors say that brass knuckles and a gun were found in Rapoport’s apartment on the day he was arrested. They wrote, “These weapons are the tools of the trade for an ‘enforcer’ who threatens the use of force to collect debts.”

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