Closing down a Mexican food stall on the bustling Las Vegas Strip adds nothing to the bean hill in this world. Or at least it shouldn’t.
That’s not what the famous and exotic Tacos El Cabron at Resorts World Las Vegas is.
Last week, the Strip’s social media derided the shutdown, once again calling to mind its intriguing ownership and connection to controversies in the resort world that caught the attention of game console regulators. By Thursday, gambling publications and Nevada stream Weighed in. A source confirmed that the taco booth had been closed for more than a week.
Why all the focus on the obvious tearing of a burrito in a can?
Because in the recognized political world of games organizing in Nevada, appearances matter. Ownership issues are meant to be taken seriously, whether they are related to the taco shop or the entire enchilada.
An embarrassment to the gaming industry could fine a casino license holder — just ask the $20 million man, Steve Wynn — and potentially cost a highly paid executive the golden ticket for key employee status.
That’s a lot to risk even at the best taco shop.
The question skeptics might ask themselves is: Why did it take Resorts World so long to become wise about the proximity of the El Capron estate to one of the largest cases of illegal gambling and the California book industry led by long-time sage Dave Strug?
Not to make the point, but Stroj presided over a multi-million dollar illegal gambling operation that was revealed in 2015 to be very adept at laundering money at California card clubs and Las Vegas casinos.
Strug was convicted, served time, and is now subject to supervised release, which is being challenged at a federal hearing Monday in San Diego. It is unlikely that Strug will be re-imprisoned, but he has already admitted to gambling in Las Vegas against the terms of his supervision.
In an effort to put a lid on the beans, as it were, the casino company, through Rogich Communications, confidently responded to reporters’ queries by saying, “Resorts World Las Vegas performed full due diligence on the tenant before entering into the lease. David Strug is not now, and has not been director or owner of Tacos El Cabron”.
For the record, Stroj claims he’s never had a piece of Tacos El Cabron. It is owned by Jaime Behar, Jean Paul Rojo and his father, Peter Strog. All of this was initially used by the management of Resorts Worldwide as a gazpacho-thin defense of due diligence in the matter.
Except that, as I mentioned earlier, Bihar and Rojo have also been named in the illegal gambling case. Another gambler in the resort world, Craig Kolk, was also indicted and has since been banned from the property.
After this fumbling, it’s no wonder Resorts World has hired a third party as part of an investigation into the characters and circumstances surrounding the Taco Rift Big and other thorny matters raised by punters Brandon Sattler and gambler/whistleblower RJ Cipriani. Someone must begin to properly understand his story.
In an affidavit in an unrelated case, Sattler accused World Resorts president Scott Sibylla of illegal drug use, an allegation he denied. Sattler’s sworn testimony is irrefutable, but it is also notable that he is currently charged in civil cases with taking investors off more than $11 million.
Cipriani has reported the existence of gamblers with criminal records, including convicted fraudster Robert Alexander and none other than Dave Strug, playing at Resorts World. Both are now banned from ownership. Until the latest settlement, Cipriani fought dubious criminal charges that he cheated at the casino and assaulted former Kizzang mentor Alexander.
With third-party oversight, Resorts World seems to realize there’s a lot more at stake than some embarrassing titles. There is the case for its licensing, of course, and its credibility as it tries to expand into other lucrative jurisdictions, not least New York.
There is another thing. In the year 2022, it’s hard to imagine any casino giant that would like to be seen as dealing with characters who have a decidedly old school record when it comes to illegal gambling, money laundering and even debt collection.
Which brings us back to Dave Strog, the guy who knows the street like no one else. Back when he had millions on a high-dollar card game purchase in California, Stroj had to deal with slow paying clients.
Some people go the legal route. Strug has relied on a strong double fellow named Arturo Diaz Ramirez.
At one point, when a court-authorized recording was made, he lost his temper on the phone when a belated client shunned him.
“You came to me for help and offered you 200 thousand dollars, and now you do not respect me and hang up?” roaring strogg. “Call back or I’ll sell your debt to Arturo.”
Call it a hunch, but I guess it wasn’t a good thing to have your debt sold to Arturo.
Strug later added, “You don’t owe me anymore. Now you owe Arturo.”
Diaz-Ramirez was named in the 2015 gambling indictment, but luckily for a lot of people, he’s not listed as the owner of the Strip’s most famous taco stand.
John L. Smith is a longtime author and columnist. He was born in Henderson and his family roots in Nevada go back to 1881. His stories have appeared in Time, Readers Digest, The Daily Beast, Reuters, Ruralite, Desert Companion, and others. He also provides weekly commentary on Nevada Public Radio Station KNPR.