MGM Agrees to Pay $7.45 Million Settlement in Bookie Money Laundering Probe

Written by:
Alejandro Botticelli
Published on:
Jan/25/2024

Scott Sibella, 61, has pleaded guilty to one count of failure to file reports of suspicious transactions. Sibella served as president of the MGM Grand from August 2017 until February 2019.

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The MGM Grand and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas casinos have entered into settlements that require them to pay a combined $7.45 million, undergo external review, and enhance their anti-money laundering compliance program following an investigation by the Bank Secrecy Act.

Investigators say that a Southern California-based bookie, Wayne Nix, was permitted by Sibella to gamble at MGM Grand and affiliated properties with illicit proceeds generated from the illegal gambling business without notifying the casino's compliance department.

Sibella also allegedly allowed Nix to receive complimentary benefits at the casino, including meals, room, board, and golf trips with senior executives and other high-net-worth customers.

It was reported by Gambling911.com and other media outlets this past summer that casino executives were being questioned by the FBI agents out of California for allegedly using casino assets to gamble with Nix bookmaking business.  Gambling911.com was also the first website to report on the rumors of an ongoing investigation of casino execs following a tweet by high stakes gambler-turned government source, RJ Cipriani, first claiming multiple casino executives were under investigation prior to any confirmation.

Cipriani tweeted back in July:

"I'm hearing from multiple sources, not confirmed YET. Lots of MGM PD guys (inc Ron Ellwood?) got fired because they got caught up with some bookie. Goes all the way up to a former Pres of an MGM resort. People went to FBI and have all kinds of proof, including texts."

The Nevada Current would go on to confirm these reports week later.

Cipriani would later tell Gambling911.com exclusively, "I'm hearing Scott Sibella, former Pres at MGM and current Pres at Resorts World, was very tight with Wayne Nix and other bookies for many YEARS! They hate each other now. When Ellwood was let go, Sibella was very nervous about all this leading to him, as he should be!"

Nix is a former minor league pitcher who ran a major league illegal sports betting operation in California, according to federal prosecutors. Nix ran his website, Sand Island Sports, out of the sports betting hub of Costa Rica.

Nix, who threw for Oakland Athletics farm teams, used his connections to recruit three former Major League Baseball players and a former pro football player as fellow bookies, prosecutors said.

Court records offered no names of the players who worked for Nix or those who placed bets with his business, but they provide a glimpse of the kind of money being wagered, earned and lost.

In April, Nix was ordered to pay restitution in connection with the scheme that allegedly ensnared ex-Dodgers Yasiel Puig.  He was also sentenced to three months' home detention.

The United States Attorneys Office Out of the Central District of California issued a press release following Sibella's guilty plea.

“Financial institutions have a duty under the law to report criminal or suspicious activity occurring at the institution though SARs,” said First Assistant United States Attorney Joseph McNally. “Our office will aggressively prosecute corporate executives and employees who turn a blind eye to criminal actors depositing illegal funds at casinos and financial institutions.”

“Turning a blind eye to laundering of illicit funds and knowingly avoiding reporting requirements puts public safety at risk,” said HSI Los Angeles Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jennifer Reyes. “The El Camino Real Financial Crimes Task Force is uniquely prepared to investigate, disrupt, and prosecute the bad actors, holding them accountable for their actions.”

“Mr. Sibella’s willful violation of Bank Secrecy Act obligations to report suspicious activities put the credibility of the MGM Grand at risk,” said Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher, IRS Criminal Investigation, Los Angeles Field Office. “The BSA mandates reporting of suspicious activities to protect financial institutions from becoming participants in money laundering activities often benefitting criminal or terrorist organizations. While president of MGM Grand, Mr. Sibella undermined the trust and confidence of his employees, customers and regulating agencies, and for that he will be held accountable. Additionally, the non-prosecution agreements with MGM Grand Hotel, LLC and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas should serve as notice to other casinos and financial institutions that evading BSA obligations can carry severe consequences, and we will investigate suspected non-compliance.”

Even prior to the release, news searches related to the probe began trending on Gambling911.com early Thursday morning.

The agreements also require MGM Grand and The Cosmopolitan to cooperate with law enforcement in any additional investigations or proceedings arising from the conduct described in the agreement’s statement of facts.

It is not immediately known if investigations are ongoing as previous reports suggest a more wide reaching probe.

- Alejandro Botticelli, Gambling911.com Senior Correspondent

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