weather icon Cloudy

Former MGM executive Sibella sentenced in federal court

Updated May 8, 2024 - 8:05 pm

LOS ANGELES — Former MGM Grand President Scott Sibella was sentenced to one year’s probation and fined $9,500, plus a $100 special assessment, for violating the federal Bank Secrecy Act established to prevent money laundering at financial institutions.

U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee pronounced the sentence Wednesday in the Central District Court of California in downtown Los Angeles.

Sibella is required to pay the $100 special assessment immediately and the $9,500 interest-bearing fine within 15 days. The terms of his probation require him to perform 200 hours of community service.

Following the 20-minute hearing, Sibella declined an interview, but issued a prepared statement.

“I’m relieved to have this matter concluded and accept the terms imposed today by the court,” he said.

“As I have said throughout this investigation, I regret the pain this has caused my friends and family and am extremely grateful for those who chose to stand with me throughout these difficult times.

“The decision to plead to the single charge, for failing to file a suspicious activity report (SAR) at MGM Resorts in 2017, was not easily arrived at given the underlying facts and realities in this matter. I was charged from the very beginning for not filing a SAR, accepted a plea, and have taken full and complete responsibility for what I did. I want to reiterate that by, anything alleged, I gained no benefit — neither personal, professional or financial.”

Sibella, who pleaded guilty Jan. 24, failed to file suspicious transactions reports required of casinos while leading the MGM Grand between August 2017 and February 2019.

According to court records unsealed in January, Sibella turned a blind eye to the presence of illegal bookmaker Wayne Nix, a former minor-league baseball pitcher, who was invited to “Scott Sibella Undercover Weekend” events at the MGM, a reference to Sibella’s appearance on the reality television show “Undercover Boss.”

Court records documented six occasions in which Sibella hosted Nix knowing that he shouldn’t have been allowed to play.

Court documents say Sibella deliberately avoided learning how Nix paid his casino markers and didn’t file any suspicious activity reports to authorities.

Known illegal bookmaker

According to court documents, Sibella admitted to law enforcement in 2022 that he believed Nix was involved in illegal sports bookmaking, but “didn’t want to know because of my position … If we know, we can’t allow them to gamble … I didn’t ask, I didn’t want to know I guess because he wasn’t doing anything to cheat the casino.”

Nix pleaded guilty in April 2022 to one count of conspiracy to operate an illegal gambling business and one count of filing a false tax return and a scheduled sentencing by Gee in March was postponed.

“Financial institutions have a duty under the law to report criminal or suspicious activity occurring at the institution through suspicious activity reports,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph McNally said in January. “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.”

Sibella left the MGM Grand to become president of Resorts World Las Vegas prior to its June 2021 opening, but was fired in September 2023 for an unspecified violation of company policies and terms of his employment agreement.

Sibella, 61, had faced a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Both the United States Probation Office, in a presentence investigation report filed April 3, and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed with the sentence Sibella ultimately received.

The Probation Office noted federal sentencing guidelines in its recommendations.

The recommendation said Sibella accepted responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty and that his age also was a mitigating factor.

After the hearing began, Sibella, dressed in a blue suit, stood before the judge with his attorney, Jeffrey Rutherford.

Sibella calmly addressed the judge and apologized to the court, his friends, family and colleagues in the gaming industry for his actions.

“This has turned my life upside down,” Sibella told the judge. “And you will never see me in this court again.”

After the hearing, Rutherford said he and his client were satisfied with the sentencing outcome. He said it was one of the smoothest and shortest sentencings he had been a part of in his career.

There were eight people in the courtroom gallery for the hearing.

Gee concurred with the sentencing recommendations received from the probation office and U.S. Attorney’s Office and said she was moved by receiving 81 letters in support of Sibella from his gaming colleagues and people who know him.

“I don’t believe I have ever received so many letter of support,” she said.

MGM, Cosmopolitan fined

MGM Resorts International also was penalized for Sibella’s actions.

MGM Grand and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas entered into a non-prosecution settlement agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, paying a total $7.45 million fine and is cooperating with authorities that are further investigating the reach of illegal bookmaking in California.

Under terms of the settlement agreement between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and MGM Resorts, the company will be required to undergo external review and enhance its anti-money-laundering compliance program.

Sibella’s legal troubles aren’t ending with the federal sentencing.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board on April 30 filed a three-count complaint against Sibella which could result in him having his gaming license suspended or revoked and a fine of up to $750,000.

“Sibella, knowing that Nix engaged in illegal bookmaking, allowed Nix to gamble at the MGM Grand and its affiliates and receive complementary benefits at the MGM Grand, including room, board and golf trips with senior executives and other high-net-worth customers of the casino to further encourage Nix to patronize the casino and/or affiliated properties,” the complaint says.

It’s unclear when the five-member Nevada Gaming Commission will act on the Control Board complaint.

Under state gaming procedures, the Nevada Attorney General’s Office serves as a prosecutor on behalf of the Control Board and the commission stands as judge and jury.

Sibella’s attorneys could negotiate a stipulation of settlement which would have to be approved by the commission, or the matter could be adjudicated like a trial.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on X.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.