Tobey Maguire, the actor whose turn as Spiderman generated a reputed income of $25 million per film, supplemented his professional earnings at the card table, where his well-practiced ability to deadpan helped win hundreds of thousands of dollars at illegal games of high-stakes poker, a lawsuit alleges.
It is said that one of his regular opponents at the late-night events, which were attended by a slew of film stars, Hollywood executives, and local billionaires, was a convicted fraudster called Bradley Ruderman, who is said to settled his debts to Maguire using $311,000 [£191,000] that had been stolen from his victims.
Lawyers representing investors in a Ponzi scheme which has earned Ruderman a ten year prison sentence are now pursuing Maguire and several other prominent poker aficionados for the return of a sum totaling more than $4 million [£2.47m], which they are believed to have won from the conman between 2006 and 2009.
Their lawsuit was filed in March, but became public this week when it was stumbled-upon by a reporter for the US supermarket tabloid Star. It lifts the lid on an extravagant world of high-stakes Texas Hold'em events staged in private suites at a selection of large five-star hotels in Beverly Hills.
Regular players are said to have included Leonardo Dicaprio, Ben Affleck, and Matt Damon, along with Nick Cassavetes, the director of The Notebook, who is being sued for the return of $73,000. Alec Gores, a prominent Hollywood financier who last year attempted to buy the film studio Miramax is facing a claim of $445,000.
The games were "exclusive events, by invitation only, and that there was a regular roster of players consisting of wealthy celebrities, entrepreneurs, attorneys and businessmen," reads the 18 page lawsuit. It describes Maguire as a "very, very frequent" atendee.
Players were expected to turn up with a minimum of $100,000 at the twice-weekly events. The organiser, a socialite called Molly Bloom, told investigators that she earned a cut of their bankroll for providing card-tables, professional dealers, food, drink, and back masseurs to calm the nerves of invited guests.
Mr Ruderman, who ran a Beverly Hills investment firm called Ruderman Capital Partners, was a regular guest but incompetent poker player. The prosecution at his trial earlier this year told how he began using funds belonging to his clients to cover spiraling gambling debts.
When his investment fund collapsed, Ruderman was the subject of an FBI investigation. It concluded that he had been running a Ponzi scheme. After pleading guilty to two counts of wire fraud, two counts of investment adviser fraud and willful failure to file taxes, he received a ten year sentence in federal prison.
The lawsuits against his former poker opponents are now being filed by Howard Ehrenberg, a bankruptcy trustee representing defrauded investors. They claim that Maguire and others have no right to keep money won from Ruderman, since the payments constitute "fraudulent transfers" of stolen funds.
Legal analysts describe that argument as ambitious. Maguire's representatives have yet to comment on the case, but several of those being sued by Ehrenberg say they will mount a vigorously defence against the charges.
Unlicensed gambling is illegal in California, and if the allegations are proven questions will be asked as to why the management of hotels allowed the events to take place on their property. The US taxman may also wish to check that players named in the lawsuits declared poker winnings on their tax returns.
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