Authorities indicted a Las Vegas businessman on charges that he operated an elaborate Ponzi scheme that took in nearly $200 million from investors - $175 million of which was gambled away at various Las Vegas casinos. Ramon DeSage, also known as Ramon Abi-Rached and Raymond Antoine Abi-Rached, was indicted by a federal grand jury on four counts of wire fraud - each of which carry a maximum prison term of twenty years. Additionally, authorities are seeking the forfeiture of $191 million in scheme proceeds. DeSage's attorney indicated he would plead guilty at his upcoming arraignment.
The indictment is the latest in a string of legal troubles for DeSage. He was arrested in July 2012 as the result of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service that culminated in the filing of charges of wire fraud. 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."
Specifically, DeSage told investors that he was in the wholesale distribution business, and that their funds were used to purchase and resell items such as hand soap and luggage. DeSage was accused of using Cadeau Express to defraud at least four wealthy investors and using those funds to pay off over $20 million of gambling debts owed by DeSage. While details remain scarce, the IRS investigation indicated that DeSage's investors were owed at least $75 million.
One shocking revelation from the indictment reveals that, of the approximately $190 million raised from investors, approximately $175 million was sent to various casinos for gambling purposes. According to the evidence presented for one fo the wire fraud charges, at least one of these hotels was the Hard Rock Casino. Not suprisingly, DeSage's penchant for gambling continued even after his arrest in July 2012, when a federal judge was forced to change the terms of DeSage's electronic home monitoring after it was discovered he visited casinos over 26 times over an eight-week period while he was awaiting trial.
DeSage's arraignment is scheduled for February 8, 2013.
A copy of the indictment is here.