Authorities arrested a high-rolling Las Vegas businessman last week on charges that he operated an "elaborate" Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of at least $75 million. Ramon DeSage, 61, a dual citizen of the United States and Lebanon, was the subject of a complaint filed by the Internal Revenue Service that leveled charges of wire fraud and accused DeSage of using investor funds to sustain a lavish lifestyle that included millions of dollars in gambling losses. Wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison, along with a fine up to $250,000.
According to the IRS complaint, DeSage used his company, Cadeau Express, to solicit funds from investors with the promise of high returns. The company, whose website is still active, describes itself as a "unique company that caters to hotels and casinos who roll out the red carpet for selective guests and high-end gamblers." The IRS alleges that DeSage and Cadeau Express defrauded at least four wealthy investors, using some of these funds to pay off over $20 million of gambling debts owed by DeSage. While the full extent of the fraud is unknown due to the complaint being filed under seal, the IRS alleges that investors are currently owed over $75 million.
At a detention hearing, prosecutors unsuccessfully argued for DeSage to be kept behind bars due to the flight risk posed by his dual-citizenship and significant assets in Lebanon, where he is referred to as a "sheik". Additionally, DeSage was said to have spent nearly $4 million on private air travel since 2005. United States Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen allowed DeSage to be released on his own recognizance, but ordered him to surrender his passports and submit to electronic monitoring.