It seems that if you wait long enough, life will inevitably imitate art.
Gifted poker player (played by Matt Damon) plays Texas hold’em in an illegal underground poker room ran by a Russian mobster, wins, rides off into the sunset. What a great storyline. Indeed, Rounders became a blockbuster upon its release in 1998.
Gifted poker player, Matt Damon, plays Texas hold’em in an illegal underground poker room allegedly ran by a Russian mobster, gets busted, must appear in court. Sounds much the same, except this time it’s not a movie script but quite possible real life American gambling news.
When the Feds busted a high-profile illegal gambling ring earlier this week, they put an end to an extensive and extended investigation that started at least 2 years ago. Alongside with Damon the celebrity clientele rumored to have included other people with plenty of disposable income, such as actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, or the Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
Said to be run by Russian mobsters, organized by socialite Molly Bloom, these games saw hundreds of thousands of dollars being bet and – according to the federal charges – operated as part of a crime network that laundered over a hundred million dollars. Other branches of the network included illegal American internet casino and a global sportsbook.
An indictment by a US District Court has been issued against 34 people on a wide range of charges stretching from racketeering and extortion, to breaking American gambling laws, and money laundering.
Reading like a Kosher Mafia revival with a Russian twist, also listing mob aliases like The Oracle and Joe the Hammer (probably not a reference to the gentleman’s carpentry skills), the court document claims that the defendants “used threats of violence to obtain unpaid gambling debts from clients”.
Just how much these busted celebrities knew about the mob involvement remains to be seen. Although it is unlikely that these stars will be wearing prison stripes (or prison pink) anytime soon, they should have certainly been more cautious in accepting such invitations since they had been caught in the act in 2011.
In fact, two years ago Maguire claimed that he was unaware that he was breaking the law. It will be interesting to hear former Spiderman’s story now.