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LA casino is hit with $500,000 fine after ‘looking the other way’ to potential money laundering

A California casino was fined $500,000 and is undergoing enhanced review after staff failed to alert authorities when a high-roller brought $100million in cash to use on games of baccarat.

The high-roller, described only as a Chinese national, visited the Bicycle Hotel & Casino in Los Angeles County approximately 100 times over an eight-month period in 2016.

Federal prosecutors say the gambler would play high-limit baccarat in a VIP room with large sums of cash that he would transport to and from the casino in duffle bags. The man would then have his assistant conduct cash-in or cash-out transactions on his behalf, totaling an estimated value of over $100million.

Officials say the casino failed to file suspicious activity reports durning the alleged gambling incidents and improperly filed currency transaction reports in the name of the assistant instead of the high-roller.

Hotel staff alerted management of the compliance failures in late July 2016, prompting the establishment to amend currency transaction reports to include the high-roller’s name and regularly file reports questioning the ‘suspicious nature of his source of funds’. 

On Friday, federal prosecutors entered into a Non-Prosecution Agreement (NPA) with the casino requiring the establishment to pay a fine and improve its anti-money-laundering protocols. 

The Bicycle Hotel & Casino in Bell Gardens, California was forced to pay a $500,000 fine and strengthen its anti-money-laundering protocols after a 2017 raid and investigation (pictured) revealed that the casino ailed to file suspicious activity reports and improperly filed currency transaction reports

The investigation was launched after a high-roller (not pictured), described only as a Chinese national, brought $100M cash to bet on games of baccarat during an 8-month period in 2016

The investigation was launched after a high-roller (not pictured), described only as a Chinese national, brought $100M cash to bet on games of baccarat during an 8-month period in 2016

Authorities raided the Bicycle Hotel & Casino in 2017 to investigate possible money laundering. 

According to the Department of Justice, the investigation revealed that from at least January 7, 2016 to July 27, 2016 the hotel failed to properly file reports regarding the Chinese national’s cash transactions during his nearly 100 visits. 

In one instance, as cited in the NPA, the high-roller withdrew $2million from his player account at approximately 2:45pm and played in a VIP room through 1:20 am the following morning. 

Staff failed to report this activity even though federal law requires casinos to record and report the details of transactions involving more than $10,000 in cash by any one gambler in a 24-hour period. 

Federal prosecutors say the gambler would play high-limit baccarat in a VIP room with large sums of cash that he would transport to and from the casino in duffle bags

 Federal prosecutors say the gambler would play high-limit baccarat in a VIP room with large sums of cash that he would transport to and from the casino in duffle bags

The man would then have his assistant conduct cash-in or cash-out transactions on his behalf, totaling an estimated value of over $100million. The casino failed to comply with reporting protocols surrounding this type of activity

The man would then have his assistant conduct cash-in or cash-out transactions on his behalf, totaling an estimated value of over $100million. The casino failed to comply with reporting protocols surrounding this type of activity

The casino has since acknowledged its mistake and ‘moved quickly to amend its filings,’ the company’s attorney Johnny L. Griffin III told MarketWatch.

He said Bicycle Hotel $ Casino is committed ‘to ensuring that all of its compliance and reporting programs are strictly followed and updated as the laws and regulations require.’ 

Last week, prosecutors agreed to enter into an NPA with the casino in recognition of the establishment’s efforts to strengthen its anti-money laundering program, as well as its acceptance of responsibility, cooperation with authorities during the investigation, and agreement to pay the $500,000 fine. 

The casino must also implement additional review and reporting requirements, including an audit by a third party and regular reporting to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 

Hotel staff alerted management of the compliance failures in late July 2016, prompting the establishment to amend currency transaction reports to include the high-roller's name and regularly file reports questioning the 'suspicious nature of his source of funds'

Hotel staff alerted management of the compliance failures in late July 2016, prompting the establishment to amend currency transaction reports to include the high-roller’s name and regularly file reports questioning the ‘suspicious nature of his source of funds’

Last week, prosecutors agreed to enter into an NPA with the casino in recognition of the establishment's efforts to strengthen its anti-money laundering program, as well as its acceptance of responsibility, cooperation with authorities during the investigation, and agreement to pay the $500,000 fine

Last week, prosecutors agreed to enter into an NPA with the casino in recognition of the establishment’s efforts to strengthen its anti-money laundering program, as well as its acceptance of responsibility, cooperation with authorities during the investigation, and agreement to pay the $500,000 fine

The agreement also requires the Bicycle to cooperate with law enforcement in any additional investigations or proceedings arising from the conduct discovered during the investigation.

‘I am pleased that the government, through its extensive and lengthy investigation, has determined and confirmed that there are no systemic faults within the Bicycle Hotel & Casino’s compliance and reporting programs,’ Griffin shared.  

At this time, it remains unclear if the Chinese national is under investigation or facing charges.


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