Nellie Andreeva

UPDATED, FRIDAY 9:28PM: Days after Showtime picked up his freshman drama for a second season, the series’ executive producer Bryan Zuriff has pleaded guilty to running an illegal gambling operation. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement today from New York that Zuriff faces up to five years in prison and has agreed to forfeit $500,000 as part of his plea deal, according to the statement. “Bryan Zuriff spanned the coasts with his crimes, by operating his own illegal gambling enterprise in Los Angeles, and helping to operate a vast illegal gambling enterprise in New York,” Bharara said. “With his plea, he becomes the first defendant, but not the last, to be convicted in this sprawling script of criminal conduct.” The plea comes on the heels of a very successful first month for Ray Donovan. The Liev Schreiber starrer debuted June 30 as the biggest original series launch in Showtime history. Then it became the premium network’s first new drama to see second-week gains. That led to its sophomore-season pickup on July 16. For the time being, Zuriff continues with his EP duties on the show.

PREVIOUSLY: In a bizarre story that reads like a Hollywood script, Bryan Zuriff, executive producer of Showtime‘s high-profile new drama series Ray Donovan, is among 34 people charged with running gambling operations that have allegedly laundered more than $100 million. The charges, a result of a massive FBI investigation, were unsealed today by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney, with the accused, including Zuriff, referred to as “alleged members and associates of Russian-American organized crime enterprises.” In the indictment, Zuriff is listed as a “fugitive”, though people close to him strongly dispute that characterization, which may also mean that he had not been arrested yet. Zuriff, known in Hollywood as a high-stakes gambler, is charged with Operating an Illegal Gambling Business and Unlawful Internet Gambling, which carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. “The charges against Bryan Zuriff today came as a complete surprise to him,” said Zuriff’s attorney Matthew E. Sloan, partner at Skadden Arps in Los Angeles and a former federal prosecutor. “He denies any wrongdoing and looks forward to his day in court to confront them.”For the past few years, Zuriff, whose feature producing credits include the 2009 The Messenger and 2011 The Details, was under a deal at Mark Gordon Co., which produces Ray Donovan. Zuriff, who is credited with bringing Ray Donovan to Gordon and championing the project, is currently an independent producer working on the series, which ironically centers on a professional “fixer” (Liev Schreiber) for the rich and famous in LA who can make anyone’s problems disappear. I hear Zuriff didn’t attend the show’s table read today. “We have just learned of this matter and it would be premature for us to make any comments at this time,” a rep for Showtime said.

The indictment lists two gambling operations with alleged ties to the Russian-American mob that catered to multi-millionaires and billionaires in the U.S., Russia, and the Ukraine. One of them is alleged to have laundered tens of millions of dollars from Russia and the Ukraine through Cyprus and into the U.S., while the other is described as a high-stakes illegal gambling business catering to the super-rich.

Also among the 34 charged is “poker princess” Molly Bloom, known as  the “event planner” that organized the high-stakes poker games for top Hollywood types, including Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio in a scheme that unraveled in 2011. Bloom is among three accused of operating and promoting high stakes poker rooms around New York City. And Hillel “Helly” Nahmad, scion of one of the richest and most powerful art-dealing families in the world, is charged with financing the illegal gambling operation. His famous Helly Nahmad Gallery on Madison Avenue, a longtime tenant of the luxury Carlyle Hotel, was raided by the Feds this morning. Leading the list of indicted is suspected former Soviet Union mafia bigwig Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov who already has an outstanding arrest warrant and has been among World’s 10 most wanted white-collar fugitives.

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