Casino Owner’s Daughter Tells of Kidnaping
In a rare public glimpse of the vulnerable side of this city’s wealthy gambling Establishment, the daughter of casino mogul Steven A. Wynn testified Wednesday that kidnapers photographed her in her underwear and threatened to distribute the pictures nationally if her father contacted police instead of paying her ransom.
Kevin Wynn, 27, described being grabbed in her kitchen by two masked men last July, blindfolded, posed and photographed with a tall assailant whom she could not see.
“The shorter one said, ‘You are my insurance,’ ” Wynn testified, visibly shaken. “I thought I’d take off my clothes, and I’d be raped. I said, ‘Please don’t hurt me. Please don’t hurt me.’ . . . I was shaking. I was petrified.”
Ray Marion Cuddy, 48, and Jacob Sherwood, 22, are charged with extortion and money laundering in the July 26 assault, whose aftermath has riveted Las Vegas’ attention.
But in federal court Wednesday, Sherwood’s attorney said that Irvine real estate agent Spyro Kemble, 37, not Sherwood, was involved in the attack on Nevada’s wealthiest family. Kemble did not return telephone calls seeking comment, but his father disputed the claim.
“This implication of Spyro’s complicity is just (bull),” said Donn Kemble, a Newport Beach attorney. Cuddy is a longtime family friend of the Kembles, and owed Spyro $20,000. “Spyro was as surprised about this as I was. Spyro was not an accomplice to anything.”
The trial is unfolding in America’s flashiest city, a gambling mecca beleaguered by mounting casino holdups--10 increasingly brazen attacks in the last two years, two within 48 hours of each other less than two weeks ago. Los Angeles gang members are suspects in half of the cases.
Jittery casino owners met last week with police and gambling authorities and are fortifying their cash-rich operations and evaluating just how to keep the increasing violence at bay--a process that began nine months earlier at properties owned by Mirage Resorts, the sprawling company headed by Steven Wynn.
On Wednesday, Las Vegas saw a remarkable side of the imposing and take-charge chief executive, who was rated by Fortune magazine in 1993 as the top-paid chief executive in the nation. In a shaking voice, Wynn described what it was like to get the phone call informing him that his daughter, his “particularly close buddy,” was in mortal danger.
“I was frightened beyond description and very confused,” Wynn said. “Your brain is jumbled. Your brain doesn’t function. I knew I needed help. I felt if I used my cellular phone (to call for help), they could hear me and it would mean her death.”
On July 26, after a normal day’s work in the retail operations of Mirage Resorts, Kevin Wynn worked out at the Mirage Hotel gym and dined with her family. She walked into her home at 10 p.m. and was grabbed by two masked men who had been waiting for her.
The men covered her eyes with cotton balls and tape and forced her to strip down to her panties, according to testimony Wednesday. They placed dark sunglasses over her blindfold so that she would appear in the pictures as a willing participant. They posed her several times with the taller of the two suspects in the dining alcove of her condominium and threatened to make the photographs public if the authorities were called.
They called her father, who had just pulled into the driveway of his home. In eerie detail, Wynn described how he returned to the Mirage Hotel and Casino, where, standing in the middle of a bustling gambling hall, he took ransom instructions by telephone.
Calling himself Voss, one of the kidnapers demanded $2.5 million, at which point Wynn became angry and argued about how much cash the casino kept in its vault--$1.45 million in $100 bills on that particular night--and how he could get access to it.
“It was new money stacked there like bricks,” he said of the white plastic bag he was eventually given in full sight of the casino guests. “It was very dense. It was heavy. . . . I held it like a baby with my arms around it” and walked through the hotel to his car.
After the ransom was delivered, Steven Wynn was given directions on how to find his daughter in the parking lot at McCarran International Airport, where she was left unharmed after midnight in her black, late-model Audi.
Two friends had met him there in a separate car, but he insisted on going up to Kevin’s Audi alone. “Whatever I was going to find in the car, it was going to be me doing it,” he said. “But after three steps, I couldn’t do it. I was so mortified. I called her name. ‘Kevin.’ From the back seat of the car, she said, ‘Dad, is that really you?’ ”
Ray Cuddy, the alleged mastermind of the kidnaping, is a former circus performer, black jack dealer and Newport Beach and Las Vegas health club manager with a hankering for fancy sports cars.
On July 27, the day after the kidnaping, Cuddy returned to California to “take his place among the rich and famous of Newport Beach,” said Assistant U.S. Atty. Tom O’Connell in his opening statement Wednesday. Cuddy was arrested there Aug. 2 while arranging the final cash payment for a Ferrari Testarosa, with a price tag of nearly $200,000.
Although Spyro Kemble was not there during the arrest, he had gone with Cuddy earlier to purchase the wedge-shaped white car, Dan Albregts, Sherwood’s attorney, said in his opening statement. In addition, $500,000 of the ransom money was found in the garage of Kemble’s Newport Beach home.
Kemble was never arrested in the case and is expected to testify for the prosecution.
Albregts said evidence points to Spyro Kemble as the man who drove Kevin Wynn to the airport and left her. But after Kemble was questioned by authorities, “the FBI goes on a Jacob Sherwood chase, and Spyro Kemble is left behind as a witness in the Newport Beach part of the trial,” Albregts said.
Prosecutor O’Connell would not comment on the defense attorney’s assertions about Kemble.
O’Connell told the court that on the day before the kidnaping, Cuddy was “emotionally broken.”
He had won a civil court judgment for $500,000 against Edward G. Baker, his partner in the Newport Beach Sporting House before it closed in 1989, but the judgment had been reversed on appeal. He had borrowed a total of $50,000 from his two best friends so that he could survive; now he could not pay it back.
Two weeks before the kidnaping, Albregts told the court, Kemble had called Cuddy to talk about getting the money back. The day of the kidnaping, Albregts said, Cuddy “told his son, ‘I’m going to California to pay off a friend.”
When Cuddy arrived in Newport Beach after the kidnaping, Albregts said, he bought a closet full of clothes and took a suite at the Marriott.
“Spyro Kemble’s credit card got him that room,” Albregts said. “Cuddy was in Kemble’s Mercedes when he was arrested.”
Donn Kemble said he and his son were shocked when notified of the case by the FBI.
“They say Ray’s been arrested and they’d impounded Spyro’s car,” Kemble said. “I look at one of the agents and ask what the hell did Ray do? He said Ray kidnaped someone. I laughed. That’s how far off it was.”
Donn Kemble said last August that he and his son first met Cuddy in 1979. At the time, Cuddy managed the Newport Beach Sporting House, an athletic club that Donn and Spyro Kemble frequented, Donn Kemble said then. For a time, Spyro Kemble worked for Cuddy at the club, Donn Kemble said.
Spyro Kemble now rents a real estate office in a building on MacArthur Boulevard in Irvine. He is a licensed real estate broker, said Ann Shawver, spokeswoman for the California Department of Real Estate. His license is in good standing and expires in 1996, she said.
Anthony Paul Watkins, 20, an accomplice in the kidnaping, has pleaded guilty to extortion and is expected to testify as the trial continues over the next two weeks.
Times correspondent Shelby Grad contributed to this story