General Manager and Two Captains of Casino Cruise Ship
Indicted For Operating Illegal Gambling Business
SAVANNAH, GA: A federal indictment, unsealed yesterday, has charged Gregory Sicilia, 59, from Savannah, Georgia, Jeffrey Thompson, 38, from Savannah, Georgia, and John Sternberg, 45, from Green Cove Springs, Florida with operating an illegal gambling business aboard the Diamond Royale, a casino cruise ship which operated in the Savannah area. Sicilia worked as the General Manager of the Diamond Royale; Thompson and Sternberg were two of the ship’s captains. Marine Charters, LLC and Diamond Casino Cruise, LLC, corporate owners and operators of the casino cruise ship, were also charged in the indictment.
According to the allegations in the indictment, the Diamond Royale, also known as the Sun Cruz VII, was a 184-foot casino cruise ship docked on the Bull River in Chatham County, Georgia. Casino games aboard the Diamond Royale included slots, poker, craps, blackjack and roulette. It is alleged that from July 2010 until November 2011, the defendants engaged in illegal gambling by operating the casino exclusively in the waters of Georgia and South Carolina, where such gambling is illegal. During the period covered by the indictment, the defendants generated over $7 million in criminal proceeds from the illegal gambling operation.
If convicted, Sicilia, Thompson and Sternberg face a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Diamond Casino Cruise and Marine Charters, if convicted, each face a fine of up to $500,000. The Government is also seeking the forfeiture of the Diamond Royale and $7 million in illegal gambling proceeds. Edward J. Tarver, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, emphasized that an indictment is only an accusation and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the Government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The indictment arises out of an ongoing and joint investigation by members of the Southeast Coastal Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST), including the Coast Guard Investigative Service and Homeland Security Investigations. The investigation was also assisted by the Georgia Department of Forestry. Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey Buerstatte and Jennifer Solari are prosecuting the case for the United States.