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Credit Anthony Lanzilote for The New York Times
Two disparate punishment options will be among those on the table on Wednesday when the art gallery owner Hillel Nahmad arrives in federal court in Manhattan to be sentenced for his involvement in an international gambling ring.
Prosecutors with the United States attorneyâs office are recommending that Judge Jesse M. Furman send Mr. Nahmad to prison for a year to 18 months.
But Mr. Nahmadâs lawyers, Benjamin Brafman and Paul L. Shechtman, are asking that their client, a first-time offender, be permitted to avoid prison and instead operate a program that would bring young people living in a Bronx homeless shelter to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Mr. Nahmad would pay $ 100,000 a year to subsidize that program and would act as a teacher and chaperone for the children, the lawyers wrote in a memorandum to the judge.
âI do not have a great education in other subjects,â Mr. Nahmad wrote in a letter to Judge Furman. âBut I really do know a lot about art, and I think I could really teach young people in a good way and hopefully introduce them to a world they might otherwise never visit.â
The judge is under no obligation to adopt either sentencing proposal as he decides the punishment for Mr. Nahmad, who pleaded guilty in November to a charge of operating a gambling business.
Mr. Nahmad, 35, who is known as Helly, had been charged with racketeering, gambling, money laundering, conspiracy and other crimes, all connected to what prosecutors described as one of the biggest gambling and money-laundering operations in the country.
âIt is important to note the substantial difference between what Mr. Nahmad was originally charged with and the single gambling offense that he will now be sentenced for,â his lawyers said in an email.
The United States attorneyâs office declined to comment.
As part of his plea, Mr. Nahmad agreed to forfeit about $ 6.5 million in cash and his interest in a painting, âCarnaval à Nice, 1937,â by Raoul Dufy, worth several hundred thousand dollars, which prosecutors say was exchanged as part of a scheme to conceal money. He also acknowledged being an organizer and leader of the ring.
Mr. Nahmadâs presentencing submissions to the court, some of which were detailed in a report by the DNAinfo website last week, include dozens of letters of support from dealers and collectors in the art world, where his familyâs resources and buying at auction have made it an economic force.
Marc Glimcher, the president of Pace Gallery, for example, told the court in a letter that Mr. Nahmad âis very simply the most honest and trustworthy person we have the privilege to work with.â
The 34 defendants in the case included a reputed Russian gangster and a man who prosecutors said had once used mixed martial arts fighters to try to collect a gambling debt. Of those defendants, 28 have pleaded guilty, prosecutors said. There have been two deferred prosecutions, and four cases are pending.Prosecutors had said that Mr. Nahmadâs access to family money provided the financing for a $ 100 million network that organized poker games and sports-betting operations and drew hundred-thousand-dollar wagers from billionaires and celebrities.
Mr. Nahmadâs family, which has galleries in New York and London and a net worth estimated at $ 3 billion, has one of the worldâs biggest collections of Impressionist and Modernist art, including one of the largest private holdings of Picasso.
Their business is prized by the major auction houses, partly because of an expansive acquisition style that often involves bidding on as many as a third of the works offered for sale in a given event. Such purchasing can create momentum at a sale that drives up prices.
Mr. Nahmad took over his familyâs gallery inside the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan when he was 21, changing the name from the Davlyn to the Helly Nahmad Gallery. He cultivated friendships with fashion models and actors and lives in a $ 21 million apartment inside the Trump Tower.
Mr. Nahmadâs lawyers wrote to the court that revenue at his gallery has fallen more than 75 percent since he was indicted, as leery collectors have looked elsewhere.
In their memorandum to the court, Mr. Nahmadâs lawyers wrote that their client was a child when he learned how to gamble from his father, a former world champion backgammon player. Mr. Nahmad placed bets on the New York Knicks with a bookie when he was 14, they wrote, and was thrown out of a casino in Monaco when he was 15 after sneaking in to play slot machines.
Mr. Nahmad met a co-defendant, Noah Siegel, in 2006, the lawyers wrote, and the two began betting together, combining Mr. Nahmadâs âdeep pocketsâ and Mr. Siegelâs acumen. For years, the lawyers wrote, the two did nothing unlawful, but their betting âwent wrongâ in 2012, when they began to accept bets from friends.
This month Mr. Siegel pleaded guilty to a charge of transmitting wagering information.
In asking Judge Furman to impose a prison sentence, prosecutors cited a wiretapped phone conversation in which Mr. Nahmad was quoted as saying that wealth can be created by those who âcircumvent the systemâ and âcheat and lie.â They also wrote that Mr. Nahmad had transferred money to help an acquaintance conceal unreported modeling income and had, in the process, defrauded that person by selling her the Dufy painting for more than it was worth.
Mr. Brafman and Mr. Shechtman said in a response that Mr. Nahmad sold the Dufy painting for what an expert deemed a fair price and was merely âspoofingâ when he spoke of circumventing the system.
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