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2 Guilty in Vegas Kidnap Case That Cast Pall on Irvine Man

May 13, 1994|ANNA CEKOLA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A federal jury in Las Vegas convicted a former Newport Beach sporting club manager and another man Thursday of kidnaping the daughter of casino magnate Steve Wynn and collecting a $1.45-million ransom.

After 5 1/2 hours of deliberation over two days, jurors found Ray Cuddy, 48, and Jacob Sherwood, 22, guilty of conspiracy, extortion, money laundering and using a firearm in a crime of violence.

The case unexpectedly threatened the reputation of Irvine real estate agent Spyro Kemble, a longtime friend of Cuddy, when a defense lawyer accused him during the trial of participating in the kidnaping.

"My reputation has been stained," Kemble, 36, said Thursday. "You can stand up and yell and scream that you didn't do it. But people will believe what they want to believe. They are quick to judge."

Kevin Wynn, 27, was kidnaped last July 26 from the kitchen of her Las Vegas home. She was released unharmed two hours later, after her father, who is chairman of the corporation that owns the Mirage, Treasure Island and Golden Nugget casinos, paid a $1.45-million ransom in $100 bills.

She was found by her father in the back of her own car in a parking lot of the city's McCarran International Airport.

Cuddy was arrested in Newport Beach a few days later as he tried to complete a cash deal for a $200,000 Ferrari. Sherwood was arrested in St. Louis.

U.S. Atty. Tom O'Connell said he would push for 25-year prison terms for both men when they are sentenced Aug. 5. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Cuddy and Sherwood face 15- to 18-year terms.

O'Connell said he thinks stiffer sentences are appropriate because the defendants forced Wynn to pose semi-nude and threatened to send the pictures to news media if her father called police.

Steve Wynn left the courthouse Thursday arm-in-arm with his daughter.

He thanked prosecutors and investigators and later issued a statement criticizing the defendants for choosing to go through with a trial.

"We are unable to understand why these cruel and calculating criminals chose to make Kevin, her mother and the rest of the family relive that experience," Wynn said.

Prosecutor O'Connell agreed that the two men, who had been offered plea bargains, were "foolish to go to trial."

"It was just two guilty people taking a shot," he said.

In his first public comments since the allegations were made in court, Kemble said he now hopes to get on with his life but is still unsure how the allegations will affect him in the long run.

Sitting with his wife of 2 1/2 months, Tracy, and his father in his parents' Newport Beach home, Kemble spoke of the shadow that has been cast by what he described as irresponsible lies.

As the trial began last week, defense lawyer Dan Albregts, representing Sherwood, told jurors that Kemble had driven Kevin Wynn to the airport after the kidnaping. Albregts also pointed out that $500,000 of the ransom money was found in Kemble's garage in Newport Beach.

Testifying for the prosecution this week, Kemble denied any involvement in the kidnaping and said he had his father, a Newport Beach lawyer, call the FBI when he realized Cuddy might have stashed money in his garage. Cuddy had been storing several boxes there for the last several years, Kemble said.

Kemble, who was born in Berlin but has lived in Orange County most of his life, met Cuddy in the early 1980s at the now-defunct Newport Beach Sporting Club, which Cuddy managed. Kemble worked for Cuddy as a personal fitness trainer before receiving his real estate license and starting his own real estate company.

In the months that followed the arrest of his friend, Kemble said, he was thoroughly investigated not only by the FBI but by private investigators hired by Steven Wynn. On the night of the kidnaping, Kemble said, he was having dinner with his wife and parents in Newport Beach.

Within moments after Albregts brought his name into the much-publicized trial that gripped Las Vegas, Kemble said, his phone was ringing off the hook.

Calls came by the hundreds, most of them supportive, Kemble said. But the calls that didn't come and other subtle actions make him worry.

"It's the curious looks you get when you walk by," Kemble said. "It's the unspoken convictions of people who think I may have had something do to with it."

Until the trial opened, Kemble said, he only worried that people might find out Cuddy had stashed ransom money in the garage of his former home. He didn't imagine he actually would be accused of participating in the crime, he said.

In the highly competitive real estate business, in which he specializes in expensive Newport Beach home sales, even a shadow of scandal can be devastating, he said.

"We didn't want any of that to leak out, because you know how people can misinterpret things," he said. "In this town it takes a long, long time to build a good reputation, which I feel I have done."

One competing real estate agent, he said, has already mentioned the allegations to a client of Kemble's.

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