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Former poker game hostess pleads guilty in NY

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NEW YORK (AP) - A former high-stakes poker game hostess pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges she helped run underground games for Wall Street financiers and celebrities in guest rooms at The Plaza hotel.

Molly Bloom was among more than 30 people charged earlier this year in a sprawling scheme by two related Russian-American organized crime enterprises, authorities said. In recent years the operations laundered at least $100 million in proceeds from an illegal sports betting operation that catered largely to superrich Russians, prosecutors said.

U.S. authorities following a trans-Atlantic money trail uncovered the poker games in New York. They said the players included professional athletes, Hollywood luminaries and business executives, some of whom ran up debts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they gave no names.

Bloom told a judge in federal court in Manhattan that she and others running the games at The Plaza, a luxurious landmark on the southern edge of Central Park, collected a cut of the pot, a fee known as a rake. Playing poker is legal, but organizing games for profit is against state law.

"The conductors of the game, including me, took a rake," Bloom said.

Bloom, 35, faces a maximum of six months in jail at sentencing on April 30. She left court without speaking to reporters.

Before Bloom's arrest, the tabloids had already dubbed her the Poker Princess because of her reputation for hosting invitation-only games in Los Angeles for the rich and famous. Media outlets said she went back to the West Coast in 2010 after two men, described in one report as "Eastern European thugs," roughed her up at her Upper West Side apartment.

Last year, It Books, a division of HarperCollins, announced Bloom was writing a memoir that promised to take readers inside the poker games she ran in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Las Vegas "until it all came crashing down around her."

Press reports have linked actors including Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck to Bloom's games. Both have declined to comment.

Last month, Bryan Zuriff, a producer of the Showtime series "Ray Donovan," was sentenced to two years' probation in the case on charges he helped run an illegal sports betting business with art world scion Hillel "Helly" Nahmad. Zuriff apologized and told a judge he'd been working to overcome a gambling addiction.

Nahmad has pleaded guilty and faces up to 18 months behind bars at sentencing on March 16.


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(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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