Flashy sports gambler caught in $9.6M fraud gets more than two years in prisonJon Seidelon April 30, 2021 at 12:08 am

Robert Gorodetsky walks out of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse after pleading guilty in a $9.6 million wire fraud scheme, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The sentencing hearing on the 23rd floor of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse made for an ignominious ending for a career that once prompted USA Today to ask, “Is this the future face of sports gambling?”

Rob Gorodetsky moved to Las Vegas to make something of his life, and he wound up turning himself into a “human meme,” his attorneys said.

He created the larger-than-life “Instagram persona” known as “Big Rob” who bet big, bought flashy cars and jewelry, enjoyed piles of cash and made his way into exclusive events with celebrities and models.

But they said Gorodetsky’s piles of cash never lasted long. He often had to sell the cars immediately. “Big Rob Style” was “a living lie,” they told a judge. And Thursday, U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo sentenced the 28-year-old Gorodetsky to 28 months in prison for wire fraud.

“You are very young,” Bucklo noted before handing down the sentence. “But it’s just a massive, massive fraud.”

The sentencing hearing on the 23rd floor of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse made for an ignominious ending for a career that once prompted USA Today to ask, “Is this the future face of sports gambling?”

A lengthy 2017 profile in the newspaper described Gorodetsky as having “emerged as one of the most compelling and controversial, albeit largely unknown, figures in sports.” It said Gorodetsky and his inner circle thought he could go on to be “America’s leading sports bettor.”

But that was before federal prosecutors filed charges against Gorodetsky in January 2020, accusing him of swindling $9.6 million out of a single investor between 2014 and 2018. Though the investor has not been named, he is described in court papers as a successful New Jersey ophthalmologist and the father of a onetime girlfriend of Gorodetsky’s.

Gorodetsky pleaded guilty shortly after the charges were filed. Before he was sentenced Thursday, Gorodetsky spoke to the judge in a voice that was barely audible inside the courtroom. He apologized to the investor he stole from, and he said there was “nothing I can say or do that will ever make it right.”

The feds say Gorodetsky falsely made himself out to be a successful day trader, convincing the investor to hand over $953,000 between February and July 2014 with the understanding that they would share in the profits from the investments Gorodetsky would make. Instead, prosecutors said Gorodetsky invested only $215,000 and put another $747,388 to other use.

And while Gorodetsky told the investor the $953,000 had grown to $2 million, the money Gorodetsky had sunk into an E-Trade account was worth less than $72,000 by July 2014, records show.

Still, Gorodetsky convinced the investor to hand over another $8.74 million between July 2014 and November 2017 for sports wagering. Prosecutors said Gorodetsky used more than $2.2 million of that on travel and entertainment, as well as a Rolls Royce, a Bentley, two Lamborghinis and watch and jewelry purchases in excess of $324,000.

Prosecutors also said Gorodetsky failed to report nearly $7 million between 2014 and 2017. And before he scammed his girlfriend’s father, they said he managed to talk $516,570 out of at least eight other investors between 2011 and 2012, putting $231,500 to his own use and losing the rest in trading.

Defense attorney Chris Gair wrote in a court memo last year that Gorodetsky began his life as an “incredibly shy child” who was introduced to poker in middle school and began to gamble whenever he had the opportunity. USA Today wrote that Gorodetsky went to New Trier High School in Winnetka, and Gair wrote that Gorodetsky was suspended from school “for taking his classmates’ money at poker games and setting up a gambling hall in high school.”

Gair wrote that the USA Today profile turned out to be Gorodetsky’s undoing, prompting investigations by the Nevada Gaming Commission and the FBI.

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