RICO Claims Against Wynn Resorts, Steve Wynn Will Proceed
Steve Wynn and the entertainment and hospitality company that bears his name had been batting nearly 1.000 over the past four years in the legal fallout from allegations against Wynn. That average recently declined in big ways, including in a Wynn Resorts bribery lawsuit.
A panel of judges recently denied a motion to dismiss the complaint, meaning a trial could happen barring an out-of-court settlement. Wynn himself faces other new legal challenges as well.
Wynn Resorts bribery lawsuit survives
On April 20, a panel of judges from the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a motion to dismiss a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) complaint against Wynn Resorts and Wynn.
The panel denied the motion because they found that the arguments raised in the opening brief are sufficiently substantial to warrant further consideration by a merits panel. Responses to the denial are due on May 25. Currently, there is no time frame for a merits panel to consider the complaint.
Such a panel would consider all of the available information to determine whether the complaint merits a full trial. Up until now, attempts at legal relief by the plaintiff haven’t seen much success.
The allegations against Wynn Resorts and Wynn
Angela Limcaco originally filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in 2018 in a Nevada federal court. She alleged that she reported that Wynn sexually harassed a Wynn Las Vegas salon employee in 2005. She further alleged that Wynn Resorts terminated her employment as a result.
That would constitute illegal retaliation on its own. However, there is more to the story here. The rest of the narrative is why this issue falls under the RICO banner. Federal judge Miranda Du dismissed Limcaco’s wrongful termination complaint, arguing the statute of limitations had passed.
The lead counsel for Wynn in that dispute, Elayna Youchah, received an appointment as a magistrate judge in a Nevada federal district court not long before she filed the motion to dismiss Limcaco’s complaint with the court. She took up the post shortly before Judge Du granted that motion.
Thus, Du and Youchah were essentially colleagues when Du acted on the case. It then came to light that Wynn Resorts had made payments to the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. Those payments came in concert with both the appointment of Youchah and the dismissal of Lincaco’s claims.
At the time, the executive director of the LACSN, Barbara Buckley, was part of the panel that selected Youchah. For that reason, Limcaco filed a new complaint, this time a RICO charge, in a federal district court in California. Buckley is among the defendants.
The California district court dismissed that complaint as well in November of 2021. In March of this year, counsel for Limcaco filed her appeal to the 9th. As all parties work on their responses in this dispute, Wynn himself has other matters to attend to.
Nevada Supreme Court opens door to ban
In January, the Nevada Gaming Control Board appealed a ruling that it could not issue sanctions against Wynn because he no longer held any role with any gambling licensee in the state. Last week, the state’s Supreme Court ruled in its favor.
Technically, the Supreme Court remanded the matter back to the district court. That order includes instructions to dismiss a petition filed by counsel for Wynn. That petition asked the court to block any action against Wynn by the Board due to his separated status from Wynn Resorts.
The Supreme Court said that the district court had no jurisdiction to grant such a petition. While the Board did discipline Wynn Resorts with a $20 million fine for the sexual harassment allegations against Wynn, it has not pursued any discipline of Wynn himself yet.
This court ruling does not mean that the Board can now discipline Wynn as if he was still an employee of a Nevada gaming licensee. It does, however, open the door to a potential ban on Wynn ever doing so again in Nevada.
With this result and the Wynn Resorts bribery lawsuit moving forward, the resort company might yet face more consequences for Wynn’s alleged behavior, and Wynn himself is vulnerable now as well.