Indictment describes $190 million scheme


High-rolling Las Vegas businessman Ramon DeSage has been indicted by a federal grand jury in what prosecutors say was a scheme to swindle investors out of roughly $190 million.

DeSage, 63, who supplies luxury gifts to the casino industry, was charged with four counts of wire fraud in the indictment, which was returned on Tuesday.

The indictment alleged DeSage, also known as Ramon Abi-Rached, gambled away $175 million in the scheme, which occurred between 2005 and 2012.

He has been summoned to appear for arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bill Hoffman on Feb. 8 and will be tried before U.S. District Judge James Mahan.

DeSage's lawyer, Richard Wright, declined to comment about the indictment, the latest in a series of legal troubles for the international businessman who is widely known on the Strip.

Wright previously promised a strong defense in the criminal case.

In July, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Internal Revenue Service agents arrested DeSage on a criminal complaint alleging he was running an "elaborate" Ponzi scheme.

DeSage, who holds dual citizenship in the United States and Lebanon, used his main Las Vegas company, Cadeau Express, and other companies to defraud his investors, the complaint charged.

At the time, the complaint said DeSage, described as a "prodigious gambler," owed investors more than $75 million.

One investor, a former casino executive, was owed about $40 million.

DeSage, who is under electronically monitored home detention, used the fraudulently obtained money to repay earlier investors, maintain his wealthy lifestyle and cover millions of dollars in gambling losses at casinos along the Strip, some of which he supplies with high-end customer goods, the complaint alleged.

Tuesday's indictment echoed those allegations, saying DeSage not only used the money to "pay off gambling debts at various Las Vegas casinos" but also to "pay for luxury personal items for himself and others and to make payments to family members."

On the Cadeau Express website, DeSage calls himself an international humanitarian and philanthropist who has rubbed elbows with world leaders, including presidents and presidential candidates in the United States.

DeSage says he was born into a "prestigious family" in Lebanon, was educated in France and once worked as an attaché for UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Cadeau Express is described on the website as a "unique company that caters to hotels and casinos who roll out the red carpet for selective guests and high-end gamblers."

Among the items the company offers are jewelry, crystal, watches, fragrances, electronics and leather goods.

DeSage also has a line of high-end chocolates.

Prosecutors filed the criminal complaint against DeSage, a Las Vegas resident since 1977, amid word that he was about to flee to Lebanon, where he is referred to as a "Sheik Abi-Rached."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Damm told U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen in July that DeSage owned a 40,000-square-foot palace in Lebanon and more than $10 million in real estate holdings.

In September, Tara Mazzeo, a friend and employee of DeSage, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of lying to IRS agents when they questioned her about her financial ties to DeSage.

Mazzeo was accused of not being truthful with agents about receiving $497,000 from DeSage between September and November 2009 to help her buy a home and a luxury vehicle.

Mazzeo, 36, is free on her own recognizance.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135.

 

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