MGM Grand Detroit off the hook for crook who stole, lost $6m


mgm-grand-detroit-casino-gambler-stolen-fundsTwo casino-related court cases are offering further evidence of the maxim that the house always wins.

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that found MGM Resorts’ MGM Grand Detroit casino wasn’t liable for some $6m stolen from investors by would-be developer Gino Accettola, who is currently serving seven to 30 years in prison after being convicted of fraud in 2018.

Accettola (pictured) reportedly accepted “substantial sums of money” from a dozen investors as far back as 2014 for construction projects in Michigan and Florida. Instead, Accettola blew the borrowed millions playing blackjack at MGM’s Detroit casino, a fact the investors learned through Accettola’s admissions during his fraud trial.

The aggrieved investors sued MGM, saying it should have known something was up after the scale of Accettola’s gambling increased “precipitously” in 2014. As a high-roller, Accettola was allowed to wager at the casino using credit markers, a process that allowed MGM to perform background checks on their new VIP.

The plaintiffs maintained that a background check should have alerted MGM as to Accettola’s lack of a job or other visible source of income, as well as his criminal history of identity theft and larceny. MGM said it had taken Accettola’s money in good faith and for “reasonably equivalent value.”

While the plaintiffs challenged this ‘good faith’ argument, the court found that Accettola had visited MGM’s casino several times a week for years before he stole the plaintiffs’ millions, gambling with his own money, meaning MGM had no need to run a background check. And his increased gambling activity predated any filing of fraud by the plaintiffs, meaning MGM had no way of knowing Accettola was gambling with stolen cash.

As for the reasonably equivalent value argument, the plaintiffs argued that Accettola was, as the court noted, “a terrible gambler,” meaning MGM “enjoyed a greater than normal house advantage” over him. But MGM also provided Accettola with over $131,520 in VIP perks, leading the court to conclude that plaintiffs had failed to prove their point.

A little further south, four Florida couples have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal funds, conspiracy to commit consumer fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering for their role in a scam that took the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming venue for $5.3m over a four-year period.

The scam, which involved four male casino staff and their spouses, involved tricking the casino’s electronic gaming machines into thinking lots of money had been deposited, then withdrawing the money as a credit voucher and flushing the machines’ memory to remove any trace of the original ‘deposit.’ The wives then laundered the stolen cash by purchasing property and other assets.

The four unhappy couples, who were indicted by federal authorities last August, will learn their fates at sentencing hearings this month and in March.