Mirage debt scandal figure settles for Online Casino Malaysia

The central figure in Mirage Resorts Inc.’s 1997 gambling debt collection scandal in South Korea and Mirage have agreed to settle their claims against each other.

Court documents filed Thursday indicated that Laura Choi and Mirage agreed July 25 to settle their claims against each other. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

MGM MIRAGE spokesman Alan Feldman confirmed the settlement, but wouldn’t discuss the terms. However, he said the settlement “resolves all outstanding matters between Choi and Mirage.”

Choi’s attorneys could not be reached for comment on the settlement.

Choi had filed wrongful termination and invasion of privacy lawsuits in 1999 and 2000 in California state court, Nevada state court and Las Vegas federal court. Choi had been demanding $1 million; an attempt in October to settle the case failed when Mirage offered $400,000.

Choi, a former international marketing representative at the Mirage hotel-casino, claimed she’d gone to South Korea in 1997 to collect gamblers’ debts at the orders of her superiors, a claim Mirage has disputed.

While overseas, Choi was arrested by Korean officials for violating that nation’s laws against the collection of gambling debts. Choi claimed Mirage officials refused to provide legal assistance; she served three months in prison there, and was fired shortly after her return.

The incident led to disciplinary action by the state Gaming Control Board, and Mirage agreed to pay a $350,000 fine to the Nevada Gaming Commission, though it admitted no wrongdoing.

Mirage and Choi told different stories about her firing. Though Choi claimed she was made the scapegoat for wrongdoing by Mirage executives, the company claimed Choi had embezzled $513,000 in Mirage funds and had false accounted for Mirage comps. In its most explosive claim, the Mirage claimed Choi had leaked lists of the Mirage’s high-rollers to Trump Hotel and Casino Resorts — a company controlled by Donald Trump, the arch-rival of then-Mirage Chairman Steve Wynn.

Based on this claim, Mirage Resorts in 1999 filed a federal lawsuit against Trump’s company and Choi, as well as former Mirage employee Paul Liu, Trump employee Joseph Guzzardo, New Jersey private investigator William Kish and Nevada private investigator Curt Rodriguez. Mirage claimed the group had engaged in a conspiracy to steal Mirage’s customer lists and divert customers to Trump’s casinos. Choi retaliated with the first of her three lawsuits.

The legal battle between Wynn and Trump soon took a bizarre twist, when Rodriguez struck a deal with Mirage. Though Mirage kept Rodriguez on the list of defendants, it agreed it wouldn’t try to enforce any judgment against him in exchange for his cooperation. Rodriguez had been working for Trump, but flipped sides in April 1999, signing a one-year, $120,000 contract with Mirage to investigate Trump.

Rodriguez claimed he’d been hired by Trump to dig up dirt on Wynn; Trump claimed Rodriguez had been hired merely to gather evidence to defend Trump against an anti-trust lawsuit filed by Mirage. Rodriguez also began working for Choi in summer 1998; in November 1998, Rodriguez began secretly taping his conversations with her. Choi claimed Rodriguez then leaked these tapes and other confidential information to Mirage. Because of these leaks, Mirage was able to pre-empt her wrongful termination lawsuit with one of its own, Choi said.

Though the Online Casino Malaysia case provided an intriguing look into the bitter rivalry between Wynn and Trump, it came to a screeching halt when billionaire Kirk Kerkorian began his pursuit of Wynn’s company. On Feb. 24, 2000 — less than 24 hours after Kerkorian’s MGM Grand Inc. offered $5.4 billion for Mirage — Mirage and Trump jointly announced they had settled the lawsuit, as well as Mirage’s anti-trust claims against Trump. The companies did not reveal the terms of the settlement.

Mirage didn’t accept the Feb. 23 offer, but agreed to a $6.4 billion buyout by MGM Grand less than two weeks later.





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