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Sports Random, Random

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Re: Sports Random, Random

#646

Post by ashkor87 »

Sierra Leone reminds me of Risen Star...
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Re: Sports Random, Random

#647

Post by ti-amie »

Bookies at the baccarat table: A new scandal grips Las Vegas
The case involving Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter is shedding light on a sprawling money-laundering probe -— and rattling The Strip in the process.

By Gus Garcia-Roberts
May 9, 2024 at 1:19 p.m. EDT

LAS VEGAS — Of all the perks the casinos near Lake Tahoe can offer high-rolling customers, few rival an invitation to play in the American Century Championship, the annual celebrity golf tournament. And perhaps the most enticing celebrity to be paired with is retired NBA legend Charles Barkley, the tournament’s hard-swinging and harder-gambling fan favorite, who every year attempts to place six-figure long-odds bets on his performance.

Naturally, in 2019, that privilege went to Mathew Bowyer, an Orange County, Calif., card player who regularly risked millions at tables throughout Nevada and elsewhere — and who is now at the center of a betting scandal surrounding the former interpreter for MLB megastar Shohei Ohtani.

Joining Bowyer and Barkley that day were a sports agent and a Midwestern tool magnate. But unlike the rest of the group, Bowyer’s source of wealth was elusive. On paper, he was a Renaissance man — dojo operator, day trader, landscaper, real estate developer. But records and interviews suggest that among some casino hosts and executives who catered to him, Bowyer’s real occupation was well known: bookie.

A tournament spokesman said the event did not have records of how many years Bowyer played but that his pairing with Barkley was probably purposeful. “The casino would have wanted to put him with a golfer with whom he’d have something in common, which in Barkley’s case would be gambling,” the spokesman said.

Caesar’s Entertainment, the parent company of Harrah’s casino near Lake Tahoe and a tournament sponsor, did not respond to a request for comment. Bowyer’s attorney declined to comment on this story.

Bowyer’s revenue source should have been a problem for the casinos hosting him. Federal anti-money laundering laws forbid the casinos here from allowing suspected bookies or other criminals from wagering at their tables. Nonetheless, employees up and down organizational charts at some of the largest properties on the Las Vegas Strip welcomed the action of Bowyer and his partners, according to interviews and confidential records reviewed by The Washington Post.

They comped Bowyer millions of dollars in discounted losses and perks, vouched for the legitimacy of his funds in internal correspondence and lifted restrictions on him for the promise of seven-figure cashier’s checks. They even gave his wife legal income for bringing in her husband’s action. All the while, they catered to him, comping penthouses and villas, shuttling him on casino-owned jets and pairing him with Barkley.

Bowyer’s real occupation went from open secret on the Strip to the stuff of global headlines in March, when multiple outlets reported that he had received millions of dollars from a bank account belonging to Ohtani. Ohtani’s former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, has since pleaded guilty to siphoning Ohtani’s money to pay off gambling debts without the ballplayer’s knowledge.

Now the ease with which Bowyer and other major bookies allegedly washed millions at Nevada tables has become a focal point of multiple official investigations, roiling Vegas and casting scrutiny on a federal investigation that was in full swing well before Bowyer and Mizuhara’s cameo roles.

Over the last two years, a dozen people have been indicted in connection with that probe, shedding light on an underworld of illegal sports-betting by well-known sports figures or those close to them, including former Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig and LeBron James associate Maverick Carter, both of whom gambled with admitted bookie Wayne Nix.

Puig is awaiting trial for allegedly lying to federal agents; Carter has not been charged. No charges have been publicly filed against Bowyer. In Mizuhara’s indictment last month, prosecutors referred to Bowyer as a “target” in an ongoing investigation.

Longtime casino executive Scott Sibella pleaded guilty in December to federal charges stemming from allowing Nix to wager illegal bookmaking proceeds at Vegas tables. Two casinos, the MGM Grand and the Cosmopolitan, admitted that their hosts welcomed Nix despite knowing he was a bookie and forfeited millions to avoid prosecution.

The Post found that two other major casinos on the strip, The Venetian and Resorts World Las Vegas, accepted millions from Bowyer and his colorful cast of Southern California associates. They include, records show, Ryan Boyajian, a muscle-bound regular on “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” who prosecutors say accepted roughly $15 million stolen from Ohtani’s account. (ESPN first reported Boyajian’s involvement.)

The professional sports industry, once deeply wary of Las Vegas, has enmeshed itself here like never before, with the city hosting the Super Bowl in February and making plans for an MLB team. But the unspooling scandal has called into question whether Vegas, where much of the power is consolidated in the executive offices of the casinos on the Strip, is capable of policing itself.

Richard Schuetz, a former casino executive and gaming commissioner, said state regulators have yet to prove they can hold casinos accountable. He referred to a chapter in this saga in which regulators publicly cleared Sibella of wrongdoing a year ago — only for him to then plead guilty to similar allegations in federal court.

“I think what they mean by, ‘We started an investigation,’ ” Schuetz said of the control board, “is that, ‘We got a guy who reads the morning paper every day to see if they’re saying any more s--- about us.’ ”

Kirk Hendrick, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, dismissed the insinuation that his agency has not acted. “I’m not hearing any criticism from the industry,” Hendrick said. “The Nevada control board will investigate anybody who is either involved in or wants to be involved in the Nevada gaming industry.”

Image
Ryan Boyajian with “Real Housewives” star Jennifer Pedranti. Prosecutors allege Boyajian accepted millions in wire transfers from a bank account belonging to MLB star Shohei Ohtani. (Anna Webber/Getty Images)

‘Everybody knew’
Las Vegas casinos have compliance departments whose job it is to vet significant gamblers. There were plenty of red flags in Bowyer’s file to give them pause about courting his action.

He had previously filed for bankruptcy. He repeatedly attempted to get out of paying six- or seven-figure gambling debts to casinos, court records show. And then there was the matter of Bowyer’s occupation.

Bowyer had long been on the radar of law enforcement, including when Florida deputies seized $100,000 mailed to his house by a crew of suspected bookies with mob ties.

A frequent presence in Bowyer’s business dealings over the years, records show, was Boyajian, his close friend and partner long before he became a minor celebrity for his relationship with a Real Housewives cast member.

In bankruptcy filings, Bowyer said he received a $245,000 loan from Boyajian in 2010. Both men were intertwined in an alleged Belizean land scam litigated by the Federal Trade Commission, in which court records show that several key players had ties to offshore sports betting. Boyajian’s attorney has said he did nothing wrong and was “not implicated.” In court testimony, Boyajian said he had been fired from a previous job as a mortgage lender for what he called “fraud,” for listing his own bank account number on a client’s loan application.

In 2017, Boyajian reported in a divorce that he averaged $350,000 in annual income as a property manager but sometimes made as much as $1 million. He had a busy side hustle, though, according to allegations made by federal authorities in court records: He accepted millions of dollars in wagers as part of Bowyer’s bookmaking business.

In interpreter Mizuhara’s federal indictment last month, Boyajian was referred to anonymously as “Associate 1,” according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the case. The indictment alleges that Boyajian received wire transfers from at least two Bowyer clients, including Mizuhara. Boyajian received $15 million from Ohtani’s bank account between February 2022 and October 2023, according to the indictment.

Court records do not provide more detail on what if any additional role Boyajian played in Bowyer’s operation. He has not been charged. According to the people with knowledge of the case, he has an immunity deal with prosecutors. An attorney representing him, Steven Jay Katzman, said he couldn’t comment: “Because it’s an active investigation in which he’s cooperating, we can’t confirm or deny anything.”

Boyajian was also Bowyer’s frequent companion on Vegas gambling trips, where, according to several people who encountered him, Bowyer dropped his subterfuge about his real occupation.

“It was no secret; everybody knew in the casino business that he was a bookie,” said Brandon Sattler, a former high roller who said he met Bowyer many times, including at high-stakes blackjack tournaments. “If people got to know him playing at tournaments and they talked to him, he would admit it.”


The professional sports industry, once deeply wary of Las Vegas, has enmeshed itself here like never before.
As a bookie, Bowyer had access to millions of dollars in cash and a tireless appetite for wagering it, mostly on baccarat. He had a long history with The Venetian, including being briefly barred from the property before being permitted back in. And Bowyer’s wagering there accelerated around 2019, according to a person with direct knowledge of his gambling. That year, Bowyer regularly brought the casino cashier’s checks worth up to $1 million.

Averaging $30,000 a hand at times, Bowyer lost up to $1.5 million in a single session. To keep his business, the Venetian gave Bowyer more than $3 million in “comps,” which can include forgiven losses, hotel rooms, jet trips and more. Bowyer’s host at the Venetian invited Bowyer and his wife, Nicole, to his wedding, photos on social media show.

Boyajian, meanwhile, was known on the Strip as a “rounder,” according to a person with direct knowledge of his wagering, meaning he made the rounds of casinos, seeking and being extended credit totaling in the millions of dollars.

In total, Bowyer lost $3.6 million at The Venetian, according to multiple people with direct knowledge. Boyajian won more than $300,000 from the Venetian, which suspended his credit line last year due to his debt to other casinos and slow repayment, according to a person with knowledge of his gambling.

The Venetian did not respond to requests for comment.

A decade ago, The Venetian’s parent company agreed to pay the federal government $47 million to end a money-laundering investigation stemming from a suspected drug trafficker gambling at its tables. The casino clamped down for a while after that, developing a reputation on the Strip for strict compliance policies.

But ultimately the Venetian allowed Bowyer as a customer. And that helped open the door for him at a major new casino up the street.

A whole new Resorts World

Resorts World Las Vegas opened in 2021, with Sibella as its president. Records reviewed by The Post suggest that the casino needed only mild convincing to take Bowyer as a customer. But in January 2022, an “independent rep” — essentially a freelance casino host — wrote to top Resorts World executive Doni Taube, citing the Venetian decision in trying to convince him to welcome Bowyer’s action.

“Matt does specialize in sports wagering, and day trading among his jitsu studio, investor in real estate development and a landscape business,” the independent rep wrote in the email. “As you are aware the Venetian compliance is very strict and they allow him to play there … I feel maybe we should consider that a big company like themselves found reason to allow him to play, and has not had any issues.”

“Matt is a cash player and will wire or bring a cashiers check for 1 million on a given trip,” the independent rep added.

The pitch apparently worked. During roughly the same period in which he and Boyajian received millions in wires from Ohtani’s bank account, Bowyer ultimately took 32 trips to Resorts World totaling 86 days, during which he lost $7.9 million, according to casino records reviewed by The Post. Boyajian lost $3.7 million over 21 trips.

Resorts World added another incentive for Bowyer to keep his action there. In 2022, according to multiple people with knowledge of the arrangement, the casino gave Nicole Bowyer, the founder of a women’s athleisure company, the role of Bowyer’s independent rep. She earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in commission on his play, all while also wagering herself, according to people with knowledge of the Bowyers’ wagering.

In a statement, Resorts World said that once the casino “became aware of information” regarding Mathew Bowyer and Boyajian, they barred them from the property, and that the company “is fully committed to its compliance obligations under state and federal laws and regulations.”

There is little evidence that Nevada regulators were seeking to crack down on suspected bookies wagering at Vegas tables before federal authorities got involved. In fact, regulators dismissed an early sign of trouble in 2022, when gambler Sattler testified during his bankruptcy that a Resorts World taqueria was secretly partly owned by another convicted Southern California bookie. Resorts World denied the allegation, and the Nevada Gaming Control Board cleared Sibella.

Also in 2022, according to Sibella’s later plea agreement, he told unidentified law enforcement agents he “heard that Nix was in the booking business,” referring to the other Orange County bookie. But Sibella said he didn’t want to know. “I stay out of it,” Sibella said, according to his guilty plea. “If we know, we can’t allow them to gamble.”

Seven months after the control board cleared him, Resorts World fired Sibella, saying that he “violated company policies and the terms of his employment.” A few months after that, he pleaded guilty to violating federal money laundering statutes. On Wednesday, Sibella was sentenced to one year probation with a $9,500 fine.

Hendrick, the control board chair, said that what his agency cleared Sibella of, and what he ultimately pleaded guilty to, were “two separate issues.”

Since the Ohtani scandal broke, the gaming control board has undertaken a new investigation apparently focused on Bowyer and others wagering at the tables, dragging gamblers and hosts to its drab headquarters miles away from the Strip for questioning.

One of Bowyer’s old favorite haunts on the Strip has also taken belated action. In March, five months after the feds raided his house and just days before he was publicly implicated in the scandal surrounding Ohtani’s interpreter, records show, management at The Venetian finally decided that he was no longer allowed on the property.

Dave Sheinin contributed to this report.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2 ... -boyajian/
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Re: Sports Random, Random

#648

Post by Fastbackss »

Knew the Ohtani case would eventually yield more details but that's a pretty fun one
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