“What happens in Vegas no longer stays in Vegas,” said U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. “All companies, especially casinos, are now on notice that America’s anti-money laundering laws apply to all people and every corporation, even if that company risks losing its most profitable customer.”
The stern warning follows news that the Las Vegas Sands Corp., which operates the Venetian-Palazzo hotel complex in Las Vegas, has agreed to return $47,400,300 to conclude an investigation into the casino’s failure to alert authorities that a high-stakes gambler, who was later linked to international drug trafficking, made numerous large and suspicious deposits with the casino.
According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California, under an agreement signed by officials with Las Vegas Sands Monday night, the company will return the money to the United States within 10 days. In exchange, federal prosecutors have agreed not to prosecute the casino for failing to file Suspicious Activity Reports. Such reports are required under federal law when a customer is involved in transactions the casino believes are suspicious.
The Bank Secrecy Act requires casinos with annual revenue of at least $1 million to file the reports, which are then analyzed by government agencies to investigate possible violations of the law, according to the USAO news release.
In Riverside County, there are several casino operators, including Indian-owned operations.
According to Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the US. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California, none of these operators is exempt from today’s warning.
“Anti-money laundering laws and the various reporting requirements like SARs are dictated by federal law,” he said via email.
In Southwest Riverside County, Temecula is home to Pechanga Resort & Casino, while Lake Elsinore is the venue for the Lake Elsinore Hotel & Casino. Both offer gambling. Neither has been linked to any wrongdoing whatsoever in the Sands case.
According to Tueday’s news release, the reason the U.S.Attorney’s Office is not seeking an indictment against the Sands is because the corporation agreed to return the money and the casino cooperated with the investigation.
The money being paid to the United States by the casino represents money sent to the Venetian by or on behalf of Zhenli Ye Gon, who at the end of 2006 or early 2007 was the largest all-cash, up-front gambler the Venetian-Palazzo had ever had to that point, according to the non-prosecution agreement.
In March 2007, Ye Gon’s residence in Mexico City was searched by law enforcement authorities, and approximately $207 million in United States currency was seized from the residence in what remains “the largest-ever seizure of currency by law enforcement,” according to the USAO news release.
Ye Gon was indicted by federal officials in the District of Columbia on narcotics charges, but that case was dismissed in 2009. Ye Gon is currently pending extradition to Mexico, which has charged him with drug trafficking offenses, according to the news release.
allege that in October 2006, prior to Ye Gon being publicly linked to drug
trafficking as a result of the search of his residence, officials at the
Venetian-Palazzo should have identified his financial transactions as
“Millions of dollars earned from illegal drug trafficking were transferred through casino accounts in a complex scheme designed to thwart law enforcement detection,” Anthony Williams, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles, said of the Ye Gon transactions.
The transactions included the wire transfer of approximately $45 million and depositing of approximately $13 million in cashier’s checks between February 2005 and continuing through March 2007, according to the news release.