The federal investigation into former Resorts World Las Vegas (RWLV) and MGM Grand executive Scott Sibella ended in a quick guilty plea on Wednesday. Sibella admitted to having failed to file suspicious activity reports under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) toward the end of his eight-year tenure as president of the MGM Grand. He has yet to be sentenced, but the penalty he faces could be up to five years in prison or a $250,000 fine.
News of the plea was broken simultaneously by multiple mainstream outlets on Jan. 24 before being confirmed the following day in a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Bonus has spoken with activist gambler Robert Cipriani, who is close to the investigation and has an ongoing lawsuit against Sibella and RWLV.
First Assistant United States Attorney Joseph McNally said:
Financial institutions have a duty under the law to report criminal or suspicious activity occurring at the institution though SARs. Our office will aggressively prosecute corporate executives and employees who turn a blind eye to criminal actors depositing illegal funds at casinos and financial institutions.
Two Investigations, a Dismissal, and a Lawsuit
Until last September, Sibella served as the president and chief operations officer of RWLV. At that time, the casino removed him from the position for unspecified violations of company policy. The Las Vegas Review-Journal (LVRJ) reports that Sibella has since said the dismissal came three days after he confirmed the existence of the federal investigation. News of the investigation had emerged from anonymous sources speaking to the Nevada Current.
Sibella had been the subject of an investigation by Nevada gaming regulators beginning in 2022. However, the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) cleared Sibella of wrongdoing in February 2023. His lawyers framed Cipriani’s lawsuit as a “rehashing” of the claims investigated by the NGCB and predicted a similar outcome.
Whether and how the guilty plea affects the civil case remains to be seen. Like the NGCB investigation, Cipriani’s complaint focuses on events that allegedly took place at RWLV, not the earlier ones at MGM Grand, which were the focus of the federal investigation and to which Sibella has now admitted.
However, Cipriani’s court filings mention the federal investigation. With its findings now confirmed, Cipriani told Bonus that his case will paint Sibella’s actions at MGM Grand as part of a larger pattern of behavior to support his own accusations, which are similar in nature.
What Did Scott Sibella Plead Guilty To?
The details of the federal investigation appear to have been much as the Current originally reported. The U.S. Attorney’s Office confirms that they relate to one particular VIP customer of the MGM Grand, also named by the Current: Wayne Nix.
Following a career in minor league baseball, Nix began an illegal bookmaking operation. His guilty plea in April 2022 may have contributed to the federal investigation of Sibella.
Sibella has admitted that he knew of Nix’s illegal activities but continued to allow him to gamble at the MGM Grand and courted him as a VIP. For instance, the statement of facts accompanying his guilty plea includes the detail that Nix told Sibella over the phone about a $5 million Super Bowl bet Nix had received from a third party known to both men.
At one point, Nix made a $120,000 cash payment to the MGM Grand to settle a gambling debt. Sibella admits he “deliberately avoided learning how Nix paid” this debt so that he would not need to report the transaction as suspicious to the casino’s compliance team. In doing so, he was violating the BSA.
According to court documents, Sibella admitted to law enforcement in 2022 that:
I didn’t want to know because of my position… If we know, 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.
In a statement sent to the LVRJ and Wall Street Journal, Sibella denied reaping any personal financial benefit from this inaction. Cipriani told Bonus that he plans to challenge that claim in court.
The Cipriani Lawsuit
Cipriani’s accusations against Sibella likewise involve turning a blind eye to alleged red flags surrounding high-rolling guests at RWLV. But whereas the federal investigation focused on one particular instance, Cipriani names multiple patrons with known or suspected criminal backgrounds. These include:
- Robert Alexander (convicted of fraud)
- Brandon Sattler (Sibella’s accuser in the Nevada investigation, who was indicted last year for failure to repay business loans)
- David Stroj (convicted of illegal bookmaking)
- Edwin Ting (described by Cipriani as a Triad member)
Cipriani’s lawsuit seeks damage on the basis that Sibella and RWLV allegedly retaliated against him for attempting to blow the whistle on these guests while allowing Alexander to harass and intimidate him.
Cosmopolitan Also Implicated
The MGM Grand and The Cosmopolitan—another Las Vegas casino-resort—have entered non-prosecution agreements to settle a related investigation. Both acknowledge that staff members—Sibella and an unnamed “host” at the Cosmopolitan—knew about Nix’s illegal activities and allowed him to gamble.
By 2020, the MGM Grand had accepted over $4 million from Nix, while the Cosmopolitan had collected nearly $1 million from him. MGM Grand will pay a fine of roughly $6.5 million, while the Cosmopolitan’s is equal to the amount authorities believe it received from Nix: $928,600.
As part of their agreements, both casinos have committed to making investments to improve their compliance protocols and to cooperate in any additional investigations.