Trump Pardons Art Dealer Helly Nahmad, Convicted of Running a Gambling Ring Out of Trump Tower, in One of His Final Presidential Acts

Nahmad, who owns an entire floor at Trump Tower, was sentenced to prison in 2014.

Helly Nahmad in front of a Picasso painting. Photo courtesy of Helly Nahmad Gallery.
Helly Nahmad in front of a Picasso painting. Photo courtesy of Helly Nahmad Gallery.

In an 11th-hour act, President Donald Trump has pardoned art dealer Helly Nahmad, who was sentenced in 2014 to a year and a day in prison after pleading guilty to a single federal gambling charge.

Nahmad, a member of the Nahmad family dynasty and the son of art collector David Nahmad, was caught co-organizing an illegal gambling ring worth $100 million out of Trump Tower in New York.

He owns the entirety of the building’s 51st floor, which reportedly cost a collective $21 million.

“President Trump granted a full pardon to Hillel Nahmad,” the White House said in a statement. “This pardon is supported by members of his community. Mr. Nahmad was convicted of a sports gambling offense. Since his conviction, he has lived an exemplary life and has been dedicated to the well-being of his community.”

Authorities raided the Helly Nahmad Gallery in the Carlyle Hotel on New York’s Madison Avenue in 2013, accusing the dealer of financing a high-stakes poker game and sports-betting ring with suspected links to Russian organized-crime figures. Those ties were never proven, although several others convicted in the case were Russian. The initial charges included racketeering, money laundering, and conspiracy, but the sole conviction was for operating an illegal gambling business.

After Nahmad’s arrest, he quickly posted $10 million bail using his Trump Tower pad as collateral, and was spotted courtside at a New York Knicks game, reportedly partying harder than ever in the lead up to his time behind bars.

Despite Nahmad’s wealth and connections, the court refused a more lenient sentence of community service after Nahmad offered to give tours of his gallery to underprivileged youth. In addition to jail time, he had to pay a $30,000 fine, forfeit $6.4 million in profits, and be treated for gambling addiction.

In the end, Nahmad served five months of his sentence in a federal correctional facility in Otisville, New York, before being transferred to a halfway house in the Bronx. He was released from house arrest in May 2015, and made his return to the art scene at Art Basel in Switzerland the following month, with a judge’s permission.

“I am grateful for the pardon and I look forward to continuing to give back to the community,” said Nahmad in an email to Artnet News.

The Nahmad family is a high-profile presence in the international art industry, known for its extensive collection of blue-chip Modern and Impressionist art, rumored to be worth $3 billion.

Nahmad is among 143 late-night pardons and sentence reductions issued by Trump in his final hours in office, including former presidential advisor Steve Bannon and rapper Lil Wayne.

Also given a sentence commutation was Michael Pelletier, who was serving 30 years for a nonviolent marijuana conspiracy offense. Pelletier, who uses a wheelchair and been paralyzed from the waist down since the age of 11, has “thrived as an artist working with oil paints on canvas, and has taken several courses to perfect his skill while incarcerated,” according to the White House.


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