Well-known California poker players Gal Yifrich and Nick Shkolnik have been indicted on federal illegal-gambling enterprise, and for Yifrach, money-laundering charges in connection with an illicit gambling operation the pair and at least three other people operated in the greater Los Angeles area for several years, beginning in 2018.
Yifrach is perhaps best known in poker circles for winning a bracelet at the 2018 World Series of Poker. He’s also won a WSOP Circuit ring, and he logged the largest tourney cash of his career, nearly $500,000, for placing third in a $50,000 high-roller event at the 2021 WSOP last October that was won by Michael Addamo. Yifrach has earned over $2 million in tourneys since 2011.
Shkolnik has logged some impressive accolades as well, while earning more than a million dollars in tourneys to date. Shkolnik has also claimed a WSOP Circuit ring, and is also known for having captured a Heartland Poker Tour main event at the Sacramento-area Thunder Valley Casino in 2015.
News of Yifrach’s indictment came via a Daily Beast feature published yesterday, which also linked to a 2021 LA Weekly piece that lavished praise on Yifrach for his humility and charitable efforts. The piece detailed some of the allegations lodged against Yifrach, Shkolnik, and the other defendants, who allegedly worked in concert to launder the revenue derived from their illicit gambling enterprise, which allegedly involved supplying, operating, and maintaining illegal slot machines installed in various locations in and near Los Angeles.
Additional federal complaint targeted Yifrach’s assets
Yifrach was likely aware of the pending indictments for several months, since the Department of Justice had already filed suit against tangible property and financial accounts in September of 2021. In filing that forfeiture action against the assets, prosecutors forced Yifrach to file as a claimant of the assets’ ownership in order to prevent a forfeiture by default. Such indictments targeting assets instead of people have become a strategy employed to target certain asset types, including cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. The 2021 complaint targeting assets listed “$317,962.00 in U.S. Currency and Approximately 4.24975436 Bitcoin,” which had been identified and frozen by U.S. agents in February of 2021.
The latest indictment, which Poker.org has obtained, focuses on Yifrach more than any other defendant. It includes a longer list of assets for which the prosecutors are seeking forfeiture. Those alleged illicitly-obtained or purchased assets include the following:
Approximately $371,051 in U.S. currency;Approximately $86,245 in U.S. currency seized from a “U.S. Private Vault Box”;Approximately $163,051 in U.S. currency seize from a second such vault box;Approximately 4.25 Bitcoin.Three parcels of land located within Los Angeles County; the forfeiture claim does not declare whether the land includes any structures.
Structuring alleged but not charged
Much of the nine-page complaint involving Yifrach, Shkolnik, and the other defendants details many of the ways the group laundered the cash received from the slot-machine enterprise. The group used at least four personally-owned corporations to transfer money, allegedly under false pretenses. One such instance involved money being funneled into one of the corporations, which in turn issued checks on behalf of another of the defendants, Yosef Yitschak Beshari, to purchase a house in North Hollywood.
Yifrach himself was allegedly involved in repeated activity to launder the group’s revenue through casino chips cashed out at a local casino / cardroom. The indictment includes references to “Casino 1” and describes it as a “Bell Gardens casino,” and the only venue in Bell Gardens is the Bicycle Hotel & Casino.
In one of the group’s alleged laundering methods, Yifrach and another of the defendants, Shalom Ifrah, “provided, caused to be provided, and agreed to provide cash proceeds of the illegal gambling business to individuals in exchange for casino chips. Yifrach subsequently exchanged the casino chips for checks from the casino. Yifrach deposited such checks into his bank account and used the funds to purchase real estate.”
The indictment also details how Yifrach and the others exchanged smaller-denomination bills at an unnamed bank in exchange for larger bills, while also limiting each such currency exchange to $10,000 or less to avoid generating reports on financial activity which would then enter the U.S.’s banking regulatory system. Such activity is a form of structuring and is a violation of American banking law, though the activity did not result in charges beyond the general money-laundering counts at this time.
Investigators appear to have been monitoring the group’s activities via wiretap for some time. Other allegations from the complaint include direct quotes from several of the defendants, on such topics as taking funds from a safe and using the money for some of the group’s expenditures.
Featured image source: Haley Hintze