Lengthy discovery period continues in Gal Yifrach / Nick Shkolnik illegal gambling business case

Gal Yifrach Event 8 Day 2 Joseph Hebert Event 8 Day 2 Jake Schwartz Event 8 Day 2 Ankush Mandavia Event 8 Day 2 Daniel Lowery Duma Event 8 Day 2 Anton Wigg Event 8 Day 2 Norman Chad Event 7 Day 1 (Image: Haley Hintze)
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Haley Hintze
Posted on: January 25, 2024 01:47 PST

A mountain of evidence that has taken over a year for defense attorneys and prosecutors to sift through continues to be the cause of an ongoing delay in the California-based federal case against well-known Los Angeles poker players Gal Yifrach, Nick Shkolnik, and two other men. The primary charges include operating an illegal slot machine business in southern California and laundering the proceeds of the business through, among other channels, the Parkwest Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens.

Six men in total were arrested in 2022 in two separate cases connected to the illicit business. The two defendants in the other case, Yosef Yitzchak Beshari, of North Hollywood, and Efraim Journo, of Los Angeles, reached guilty pleas just weeks after the second case that involved Yifrach and Shkolnik was filed.

Yifrach, who has been alleged as the head of the operation, Shkolnik, and two other LA-area men, Yosef Yitschak Beshari and Shalom Ifrah (Ifrach) have faced a much longer road to a trial. Repeated continuations mean that the case will have already been in progress for over two years by the time any actual courtroom trial begins.

142,689 pages of numbered discovery

The root cause for repeated delays in the discovery phase of the case is the massive pile of evidence investigators compiled. In 2022, when the government shared its evidence with the defense, prosecutors produced 142,689 pages of numbered discovery items from an investigation that began over a year before Yifrach's and Shkolnik's arrests.

The giant document haul included hundreds of transcribed calls between Yifrach, the other defendants, and other people associated with the case. The sheer size of the document dump forced the defendants' attprneys to repeatedly ask for three-month extensions as they sift through the files, and prosecutors have willingly agreed.

The first extension was granted in late 2022 and others were requested throughout 2023 and into 2024. The latest such extension request was filed on January 9, 2024, and it offers an indication that a trial date may soon be set; it asks for only another 60 days - until March 4, 2024 - instead of the other three-month requests.

The case has also included the filing of an order of protection involving business records that were another part of the discovery lode. Those records include a large quantity of personally identifiable information (PII) for people not involved in the case.

Yifrach has faced significant pre-trial restrictions

Yifrach, a 2018 World Series of Poker bracelet winner with over $2 million in lifetime tourney cashes, including $1.5 million at the WSOP, has faced significant restrictions since his indictment. He was at first deemed a deemed a flight risk and denied bail, though that situation was negotiated within days and he was granted release on bail, though he was ordered to surrender his passport and restrict his travel to within just a part of California.

Besides the travel restrictions, Yifrach was also initially slapped with a 10pm to 6am nightly curfew, though that restriction did not appear on an amended statement of conditions filed weeks later. Yifrach was also ordered to submit to DNA testing, to not possess any firearms, to not have contact with his co-defendants, and to not dispose in any way of assets worth $5,000 or morr without prior court approval. He was also targeted in 2022 a separate asset-seizure action that included three properties in the greater LA area.

Despite the restrictions, Yifrach and the other three defendants have repeatedly waived their rights under the US's federal Speedy Trial Act. In granting each extension to date, presiding judge William B. Shubb has affirmed that "the ends of justice served by [granting the extensions] outweigh the best interest of the public and the defendants in a speedy trial."