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Former Strip executive Sibella given probation in money laundering case

The ex-president of MGM Grand and Resorts World “regrets” and takes full responsibility for his actions. He still faces discipline in Nevada.
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
CourtsEconomyGaming
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Former Strip casino president Scott Sibella avoided prison time but will be on probation for a year after being sentenced Wednesday following his guilty plea for violating the Bank Secrecy Act.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee, based in Los Angeles, also fined Sibella $9,500 for actions he took as president of the MGM Grand Las Vegas in 2018 when he authorized casino marketing representatives to allow Wayne Nix, an illegal bookmaker and former minor league baseball player, to gamble millions of dollars at the casino and pay his debts in cash. Sibella acknowledged he was suspicious of where Nix’s funds came from but didn’t report it. 

Sibella, who was fired last September as president of Resorts World Las Vegas after overseeing the June 2021 opening of the $4.3 billion Strip property, was convicted of violating federal anti-money laundering laws.

“The decision to plead to the single charge, for failing to file a suspicious activity report [SAR] at MGM Resorts in 2017, was not easily arrived at given the underlying facts and realities in this matter,” Sibella said in a statement provided by his attorneys following the conclusion of the hearing in Los Angeles.

“I was charged from the very beginning for not filing an SAR, accepted a plea, and have taken full and complete responsibility for what I did,” Sibella wrote. “I want to reiterate that by, anything alleged, I gained no benefit — neither personal, professional or financial.”

Attorneys for Sibella noted in a court filing that a year of probation and a $9,500 fine are consistent with his plea agreement and “justified by the nature and circumstances of the offense, his personal history and characteristics [and] the many letters of support that have been filed in connection with the sentencing memorandum.”

In a separate statement, attorneys John Spilotro, Jeffrey Rutherford and Michael Artan said Sibella “never used a betting account and never made any illegal bets.” 

“Mr. Sibella has accepted responsibility for his conduct and is prepared to move forward with his life,” the statement said. “He is extremely grateful for the support he has received through this difficult process.” 

Sibella formally pleaded guilty in January. It remains unclear whether other current and former company employees will be charged. He also faces a substantial fine and other penalties from Nevada gaming regulators through a three-count complaint the Gaming Control Board filed last week.

“I’m relieved to have this matter concluded and accept the terms imposed today by the court,” Sibella said. “As I have said throughout this investigation, I regret the pain this has caused my friends and family and am extremely grateful for those who chose to stand with me throughout these difficult times.”

Guests stand in the hallway at the MGM Grand Las Vegas on Feb. 11, 2022. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Among the support letters sent to the judge was one from Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill, who wrote that he has considered Sibella a friend for almost seven years.

“Every interaction and experience with Scott have been nothing short of exceptional,” McMahill wrote. “What he is accused of is out of character and doesn't represent the person I've come to know.”

Longtime Las Vegas sportsbook operator Nick Bogdanovich wrote that “this one mistake should not define” Sibella’s career.

“It should not erase 30 years of his hard work and immense dedication to serving Las Vegas,” Bogdanovich wrote. “He is hurting and is fully aware of the enormity of his mistake.”

Sibella was president of MGM Grand for eight years before leaving in 2019 to join Resorts World Las Vegas, which was then under construction. He oversaw the development of the Strip property, which is owned by Malaysia-based conglomerate Genting Berhad.

Sibella pleaded guilty in January to violating federal anti-money laundering compliance programs when he failed to report suspicious transactions at the casino, which was required to be made under the Bank Secrecy Act.

As part of the investigation, MGM Grand Las Vegas and The Cosmopolitan were fined a combined $7.45 million because of the actions of its former employees and the failures of its anti-money laundering compliance programs. 

According to a law enforcement document, Sibella admitted that he had “heard that Nix was in the booking business” and he “couldn’t figure out how he had all the money he gambled with.” 

Sibella later admitted, “I didn’t want to know because of my position … in this business, [bookies] are a dime a dozen … I stay out of it. … we can’t allow them to gamble … I didn’t ask, I didn’t want to know I guess because he wasn’t doing anything to cheat the casino.”

Sibella’s plea was in connection with a sprawling, ongoing federal illegal bookmaking investigation. 

Columnist John L. Smith contributed to this story.

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