A federal jury Tuesday convicted a Las Vegas woman of lying to Internal Revenue Service agents investigating her boss, high-rolling businessman Ramon DeSage.
Tara Mazzeo, 36, who described De-Sage as a generous mentor and friend, was found guilty of two of three counts of lying to agents in July 2011 about her financial ties to DeSage.
A September federal indictment charged her with willfully lying about receiving $497,000 from DeSage between September and November 2009 to help her buy a house and a luxury vehicle. She also was accused of lying about the transfer of $350,000 to the business account of her Tarabella LLC to help pay for the house.
The jury took less than two hours to convict Mazzeo. She shook her head repeatedly as U.S. District Judge James Mahan polled each juror about the verdict.
When the jury left, Mazzeo burst into tears and hugged her crying mother, who had been sitting in the gallery.
Mahan set a May 29 sentencing hearing. Mazzeo’s lawyer, Charles Kelly, declined to comment.
During the two-day trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Damm argued that Mazzeo made “calculated statements” to mislead the IRS agents in their tax evasion and money-laundering investigation of DeSage.
Kelly contended Mazzeo did not willfully lie to the agents, who were looking to “flip” her against DeSage.
DeSage, 63, who supplies luxury gifts to the casino industry, was indicted in January and accused of a scheme to defraud investors of roughly $190 million.
The federal indictment accused De-Sage, also known as Ramon Abi-Rached, of using $175 million “for gambling purposes.” He faces an April 8 trial on four counts of wire fraud.
Prosecutors have alleged DeSage, who is under electronically monitored home detention, used his main Las Vegas company, Cadeau Express, and other companies to defraud his investors between 2005 and 2012.
He used the money to repay earlier investors, maintain his wealthy lifestyle and cover millions in gambling losses at Strip casinos, prosecutors alleged.
Mazzeo spent two hours on the witness stand Tuesday insisting she never hid DeSage’s financial help when she bought the $427,000 house and a $70,000 Range Rover. She also acknowledged he showered her with gifts, including a $40,000 Rolex watch, a couple of weeks after she was hired.
Mazzeo frequently gave long answers to questions and sometimes rambled during testimony. She told the jury she felt “tricked” and demeaned by the agents, who “snickered” when she told them she did not have a romantic relationship with DeSage, who was married.
She said she viewed him as a father figure who took her under his wing.
“We’re just friends,” she told the jury. “I love him dearly, and there’s nothing physical or sexual about it.”
Later, under cross-examination, Mazzeo said her working relationship has changed since DeSage was charged. She said she originally was hired to help market his company but now works night hours doing a variety of tasks at his house, including giving him pedicures.