A Brighton Beach man busted in a $100 million illegal poker ring has claimed that federal authorities targeted him because he was Russian. The New York Post is reporting that even though Kiril Rapoport pleaded guilty to profiting off an illegal gambling operation, his lawyer, Jay Schwitzman, is maintaining that Rapoport was unfairly pinned due to his ethnicity.
The scheme, which brought down Rapoport and 34 others, is believed to have been orchestrated by Russian gangster Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, who ran the operation overseas. The gambling ring drew in high spending A-list celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio. For years federal authorities have tried to extradite Tokhtakhounov but has consistently avoided capture.
Despite Rapoport’s plea, Schwitzman insisted that his client was unfairly targeted due to his Russian ethnicity:
After a hearing on a plea deal for Russian-born Kiril Rapoport in Manhattan federal court, the perp’s lawyer, Jay Schwitzman, said the government only went after his client “because of [Rapoport's] ethnicity.”
Schwitzman said his client was not involved in “any extortion,” adding “unequivocally, there was no violence involved.”
“He played poker like you and I do,” he said.
Rapoport — who lives in Brighton Beach, a haven for Russian-immigrants, including reputed mobsters — pleaded guilty to profiting off a gambling operation he said he ran for a “few months” in Manhattan in early 2012. He previously also faced extortion charges and up to 20 years behind bars.
Under his plea deal with the feds, he agreed to serve six to 12 months in prison and forfeit $250,000 in cash. He is set to sentenced Dec. 18.
In case the name of Rapoport’s attorney Jay Schwitzman is ringing a bell, you might remember him for being the lawyer for Thomas Dunikowski, the so called “Marine Park Sniper.”