NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A producer of the Showtime series “Ray Donovan” will avoid prison time for his role in an illegal sports betting business that New York prosecutors have linked to the Russian mob.
Bryan Zuriff, 44, of Los Angeles apologized to the court and his family before receiving the sentence in federal court in Manhattan. He told the judge he’s been working to overcome a gambling addiction. He was sentenced to two years’ probation.
Prosecutors had sought up to a year behind bars for Zuriff, saying he and art gallery owner Hillel “Helly” Nahmad and others were coconspirators in the bookmaking scheme, taking bets on the Giants-Patriots Super Bowl game in 2012 and other big sporting events. U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman said he agreed with defense arguments that Zuriff deserved credit for being the first of more than 30 defendants charged in the case to plead guilty.
Along with probation, the judge ordered Zuriff to perform 300 hours of community service and to pay a $20,000 fine. He had previously agreed to forfeit $500,000.
“I’m sorry for the choices I’ve made — and I take full responsibility,” said Zuriff, who’s married with four children.
The producer hopes to continue getting treatment for his gambling addiction and resume work on “Ray Donovan,” about a fixer for the rich and famous in Los Angeles, his lawyers said. Oscar-winner Jon Voight, who plays the lead character’s father, had written to the court in support of Zuriff, praising him for being upfront about his troubles.
“Bryan did not hide,” Voight said in the handwritten letter. “As soon as he was released on bail he came to the set to express his sorrow and shame to all of us. — We thank God he didn’t give up and walk away from his work.”
An indictment naming Zuriff and others alleges that two Russian-American organized crime enterprises conspired to launder at least $100 million in illegal gambling proceeds through hundreds of bank accounts and shell companies in Cyprus and the United States.
The gambling ring catered mostly to super-rich bettors in Russia. But it also had tentacles in New York City, where it ran illegal card games that attracted professional athletes, film stars and business executives, prosecutors said. Some of the defendants are professional poker players.
Nahmad has also pleaded guilty and faces up to 18 months behind bars at sentencing on March 16. His lawyers have said they will argue for no prison time, and that the guilty plea will have no impact on the operation of his gallery on Madison Avenue _ a seller of works by Chagall, Dali, Degas, Monet, Matisse and Warhol.
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