"I am not a degenerate gambler. I love this country."
- Ramon Desage
A federal judge had harsh words for a man accused of running a $75 million Ponzi scheme after authorities caught him gambling over two dozen times in Las Vegas casinos while awaiting trial. Ramon Desage, arrested earlier this summer and charged with wire fraud, was ordered by Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen to stop gambling and stay away from casinos. DeSage, who according to authorities appears to fancy video poker, had been ordered to submit to electronic home monitoring as one of the conditions that allowed him to remain out of jail while the criminal case progresses. From his past track record gambling, Judge Leen has good reason to worry: in the criminal complaint, authorities painted DeSage as a "prodigious gambler" who allegedly lost over $20 million at various Vegas casinos since 2006.
According to authorities, DeSage operated a massive Ponzi scheme using his company Cadeau Express, which described itself as a "unique company that caters to hotels and casinos who roll out the red carpet for selective guests and high-end gamblers." Rather than use investor funds for these described purposes, DeSage allegedly made Ponzi-style payments to existing invesetors and financed a lavish lifestyle that included a 40,000 square foot palace in his native Lebanon and a $10 million real estate portfolio. Authorities moved to arrest DeSage in June when investor losses were said to approach over $75 million and DeSage was on the verge of fleeing the country to Lebanon.
Ironically, when DeSage's lawyers successfully obtained his release from jail following his arrest, Judge Leen explicitly included a ban on casino visits as part of the home monitoring restrictions However, those instructions apparently took several weeks to reach pretrial service officers in charge of supervision, who unknowingly violated those orders when they allowed DeSage to visit casinos 26 times over an eight-week period. For his part, DeSage maintains that he did not deliberately violate Judge Leen's order.