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Report: Sands, feds in talks to settle probe

NEW YORK (AP) -- Federal officials and Las Vegas Sands Corp. are having talks aimed at settling a probe into whether the casino operator failed to report millions of dollars of potentially laundered money transferred to its casinos by two gamblers, according to a published report.

Representatives for the Justice Department and the company held settlement talks as recently as last Thursday, but have yet to reach an agreement, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing unidentified people familiar with the case.

Prosecutors could compel the company to pay $100 million or more in penalties, as well as file criminal charges against at least one Sands executive, according to the Journal's report.

Calls to the Las Vegas Sands and the Justice Department were not immediately returned on Monday.

The company told the Journal earlier this year that it has done nothing wrong and was cooperating with investigators.

According to the newspaper, the Justice Department's investigation centers on whether Las Vegas Sands broke federal law by failing to report money transfers by Chinese-born Mexican businessman Zhenil Ye Gon and Ausaf Umar Siddiqui, a former executive at Fry's Electronics Inc.

Ye Gon transferred about $85 million to casinos owned by Las Vegas Sands in the middle of the last decade. He lost more than $125 million at Vegas casinos, according to an affidavit cited by the Journal in a report earlier this year.

Federal prosecutors reportedly say Ye Gon's use of Mexican exchange houses should have been a warning sign of suspicious activity to Sands employees.

In July 2007, Ye Gon was indicted in the U.S. on charges of trafficking the illegal stimulant methamphetamine. The drug charges were dismissed in 2009.

Prosecutors are reportedly investigating more than $100 million in transactions through the casinos by Siddiqui, who was arrested in 2009 for accepting illegal kickbacks. He pleaded guilty to the charges and is serving a six-year prison sentence.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. owns the Venetian and Palazzo resorts in Las Vegas, as well as similar resorts in Singapore and Macau. Macau is a former Portuguese colony near Hong Kong.