A pair of men who pleaded guilty to charges in a $100 million gambling ring allegedly used mixed martial arts fighters to collect a debt from a poker player, federal prosecutors say.
Kirill Rapoport, 41, and Arthur Azen, 44, were among the 30 people arrested in April in the operation with ties to the Russian Mafia, according to the Daily News. Both men pleaded guilty to federal crimes for their roles in the ring.
In a letter for Rapoport’s sentencing hearing Thursday, prosecutors contended that Rapoport and Azen were collectors who used MMA fighters on at least one occasion to scare gamblers into paying debts, the News reports.
“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 paying Azen’s debts,” the letter said.
According to the letter, FBI agents had to arrange for the NYPD to intervene because they were afraid Rapoport, Azen and the MMA fighters would hurt the gambler, who owed Azen $35,000 to $40,000 in gambling debts.
According to the News, Rapoport faces up to five years behind bars. His plea deal calls for six to 12 months in prison for running poker games in Manhattan.
“The defendant’s role in the offense was serious. He was not a dealer or a bartender,” the letter said. “His job was to make sure that bettors at Azen’s illegal poker games and bettors of Azen’s sports book paid their debts.”
Azen pleaded guilty last month to money laundering conspiracy and extortionate credit collection.