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Las Vegas businessman pleads guilty to tax conspiracy charge

Longtime Las Vegas businessman Ramon DeSage pleaded guilty to a federal tax conspiracy charge Friday after prosecutors slashed nearly all of a 52-count indictment related to a scheme to defraud investors out of millions of dollars.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Cristina Silva said prosecutors want DeSage to serve three years behind bars for one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

DeSage, now 68, also known as Ramon Abi-Rached, previously faced 52 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. Prosecutors have said he defrauded his investors out of roughly $190 million and the IRS out of $31 million.

But U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey agreed to a special hearing, set for November, before sentencing DeSage to determine how much, if anything, he owes in taxes.

“We’ll prove there are no taxes (owed),” DeSage told a reporter as he left the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse with his attorneys after the plea.

Defense attorney Richard Wright said he would ask that DeSage serve no jail time.

The latest indictment against DeSage alleged that between January 2006 and October 2010, he and others conspired to defraud the United States through “deceit, craft, trickery and dishonest means for the purpose of impeding, impairing, obstructing and defeating” the IRS.

David Chesnoff, who represents former casino executive William Richardson, a DeSage investor, told the judge that he agrees with the plea deal.

But Joseph Ganley, a lawyer for another one of DeSage’s alleged victims, Harvey Vechery, asked the judge to reject the negotiation, calling DeSage “disdainful” and saying that the case had been “incredibly negatively impactful” on Vechery.

“We think it’s exceptionally weak,” Ganley said. “The defendant is a chronic fraudster.”

As Dorsey canvassed DeSage before accepting his plea, he told the judge that he had been a “wholesaler and distributor” for 42 years.

“Of what?” the judge asked.

“Different products,” he replied.

When pressed further, DeSage said he operated in health care, skin care and beauty products.

The scheme revolved around DeSage’s Las Vegas company, Cadeau Express, and other companies between 2005 and 2012, according to the original indictment in the case.

DeSage pocketed the 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 supplied with high-end customer goods, the indictment alleged.

Millions of dollars were laundered through several casinos, including Wynn Las Vegas, Caesars Palace, The Venetian, Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Hotel and Green Valley Ranch Resort, according to the indictment. Peter Akaragian, a co-defendant and accountant for DeSage, also pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy charge and is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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