Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Brooklyn poker-ring used MMA fighters as debt collectors: Report

In a racket as old as gambling itself, a Brooklyn thug hired two burly fighters to help him collect a debt from a deadbeat poker player for a $100 million gambling operation linked to Russian mobsters.

The only difference is these leg-breakers came from the cage and not a ring.

Federal prosecutors say 41-year-old Kiril Rapoport acted as a "collector" and used threats of violence — backed up by mixed martial arts brawlers —  to force light-pocketed losers to pay up, according to the New York Daily News.

He has pleaded guilty to running high-stakes poker games in Manhattan after being one of more than 30 people charged in April over the illegal gambling operation. 

When he was arrested, Rapoport was found with brass knuckles in his chest of drawers and an inoperable gun in his apartment.

"These weapons are the tools of the trade for an 'enforcer' who threatens the use of force to collect debts," prosecutors said in the presenting letter for his sentencing on Thursday.

He is expected to face at least six months behind bars.

Prosecutors claim Rapoport worked with Arthur Azen from Staten Island, who admitted money laundering, conspiracy and extortionate credit collection last month.

'He (Rapoport) was not a dealer or a bartender. His job was to make sure that bettors at Azen's illegal poker games and bettors of Azen's sports book paid their debts,' the letter adds.

Prosecutors say Rapoport and Azen were accompanied by two MMA fighters when they were spotted by FBI agents in October last year meeting a poker player "who appeared to be delinquent in paying his debts."

Concerned they may harm the player, but not wishing to blow their cover, the agents asked the New York City Police Department to intervene on the pretense they had reports of someone smoking marijuana in the area, the letter said.

The player later admitted he owed $35,000 to $40,000.

Rapoport's lawyer Jay Schwitzman claimed in August that his client had been targeted by the feds because of his Russian background.

Schwitzman said what Rapoport did was "hardly different from what you and I do when we play poker."

The FBI and Schwitzman declined to comment yesterday.

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