Accuser in Resorts World Las Vegas casino inquiry takes a big hit in lawsuit

Accuser in Resorts World Las Vegas casino inquiry takes a big hit in lawsuit

  • John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports
June 7, 2022 10:12 PM
  • John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports

Controversial businessman and gambler Brandon Sattler placed himself in the middle of a due-diligence debate at Resorts World Las Vegas after giving a deposition in April, in which he accused the company’s president Scott Sibella of drug use and alleged a convicted felon owned a piece of a popular taco shop on the property.

Sibella denied the allegations and the company has moved to distance itself from Tacos El Cabron, which closed two weeks ago. The Gaming Control Board, spurred in part by Sattler’s allegations, announced it was looking into the matter.

Now Sattler finds his own credibility under fire in a 42-page counterclaim lawsuit filed this week in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas in connection with an alleged multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. Representing Movie Fund LLC, a Nevada limited liability company, attorney Greg Gordillo claims his clients were victimized by members and associates of Lending Arena LLC in an investment scheme that promised high-interest returns for backing the production of several movies.

In all, Gordillo claims, Movie Fund investors were among five major groups that poured an estimated $650 million into the scheme, which was led by Romik Yeghnazary and Zachary Horwitz. Yeghnazary is the managing member of Lending Arena, a Nevada LLC and is a licensed mortgage loan originator in the state. Horwitz has a history as an actor under the screen name Zach Avery. Horwitz’s front company 1NMM Capital LLC received tens of millions from investors; he was sentenced to 20 years in prison in February for his role in faking movie deals.

In a matter of months in 2019, the movie-deal Ponzi separated Movie Fund members, including James Russell and Grant Whitcher, from more than $22 million, according to the lawsuit.

Russell and others were also previously victimized by a Ponzi scheme run by Sattler, now mired in bankruptcy and accused of bilking client investors out of more than $12 million.

“Yeghnazary took advantage of the friendship and victimized Russell even before bringing the 1NMM Capital Ponzi scheme to Russell (in 2017),” the counterclaim states.

“A year earlier, in 2016, Yeghnazary introduced and convinced Russell to lend money to Brandon Sattler. Russell, along with his long-time business partner Whitcher, and Russell’s ex-wife lost $10.45 million before learning that Yeghnazary had sucked them into a Ponzi scheme run by Sattler.”

In a fraud lawsuit filed in connection with Sattler’s bankruptcy, in 2020 a federal bankruptcy judge described his actions as “… misrepresentations, fraudulent omission, or deceptive conduct by the debtor …”

Sattler remained a rated player at Resorts World long after the accusations were leveled against him by a judge. He was trespassed from the casino property in early 2022 after his role in the ongoing bankruptcy-fraud litigation was made public in the press and at a time other casino customers with problematic backgrounds were being outed by gambler and casino whistleblower R.J. Cipriani.

Yeghnazary, a smooth-talking country-club tennis player, for now remains the enigma in the Ponzi matrix. He managed to manipulate millions from Russell and his associates without showing them a valid financial portfolio, according to the counterclaim. He simply kept on talking.

“Again, Yeghnazary tried to explain away the lack of financials,” the counterclaim asserts. “He emailed Russell on November 16, 2017: ‘This is the goose that lays the golden egg, guys, let’s just hope they keep coming month after month. My only concern with this investment is finding out for some reason that it has to stop due to the economy, or perhaps changes with HBO. You never know when these things can happen, so let’s ride this baby out as long as we can.’ The statements were false and misleading.

By November 2019, according to the counterclaim, the Ponzi collapsed, with Movie Fund holding 30 promissory notes signed by 1NMM Capital. “And 1NMM Capital defaulted on all of the 30 bogus promissory notes sold to Movie Fund by Yeghnazary without making any payments on any of the 30 notes.”

It’s not exactly the kind of company Sattler should want to find himself in after pointing fingers at Resorts World. He still faces the possibility of criminal charges in connection with his alleged participation in a fraud scheme exceeding $10 million.