Art law News USA

New York dealer given jail time

Instead of community service, a judge sentences Helly Nahmad to a year and a day in prison

Helly Nahmad, left, exits Manhattan federal court with his attorney Benjamin Brafman, last April. Photo: AP/Louis Lanzano

A visibly anxious Helly Nahmad, the art dealer and collector who pled guilty in November to operating an illegal gambling ring, was sentenced this afternoon in a New York court to a year and a day in prison. Judge Jesse Furman, who presided over the sentencing, also ordered Nahmad to three years supervised release, 300 hours of community service, a $30,000 fine and drug testing following his release.

The 35-year-old dealer’s hopes to avoid prison were quashed by the sentence. Earlier this month, his lawyers submitted a brief to the court asking that Nahmad be given community service in lieu of jail time. The document suggested that he could teach homeless children in New York about art and fund $100,000 for the programme.

But Judge Furman questioned why Nahmad had never done any sort of community service before, calling the last-minute suggestion “as low hanging fruit as it gets, and he didn’t even pick it”. After reading 65 letters send on the defence’s behalf, written largely by art world insiders, he noted that “not a single letter attested to good works Mr Nahmad has done for those less fortunate that him. That, to me, is incredibly revealing”. He added that accepting the proposal would have allowed “his family’s wealth to bail him out,” which “would not encourage respect for the law”.

Before the judge announced the sentence, Nahmad, who is part of an art-dealing dynasty, many of whom attended in support, offered his own statement saying that he was ashamed of his actions. “We are a private family and I brought the spotlight of the media on all of us”.

Nahmad’s guilty plea in November was part of a deal in which prosecutors dismissed a wide range of initial charges including conspiracy, gambling, money laundering, racketeering and racketeering conspiracy. As a part of the agreement, Nahmad forfeited nearly $6.5m and the painting Carnaval à Nice, 1937 by Raoul Dufy.

Last April, federal investigators raided the Helly Nahmad Gallery as a part of the investigation, in which 33 additional defendants have since been charged.

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