10 Casino Related Crimes

It’s the idea of winning millions of dollars with little to no work is that makes casinos so intriguing. They are a magical world, filled with the promise of untold riches and where everything is filled with glitz and glamor.  But they are also dens of sin and can attract the attention of those who believe they have the right to take what they choose. Many dramatic stories have been told about casino crime and glorified on the big screen in movies such as Casino and Ocean’s Eleven. But believe it or not, Hollywood hasn’t even scratched the surface of the Grade-A, true casino crime material that comes straight out of America’s gambling houses.

10. The Motorcycle Bandit

The Motorcycle Casino Bandit

Around Christmas time in 2010 the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas showed it was not immune to casino crime. A man rode up to the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas dressed in all black atop a black sports motorcycle. He ran into the casino, pulled out a gun, and was out the door in less than three minutes – accompanied by $1.5 million worth of the Bellagio’s chips. He jumped on his motorcycle and rode off into the desert sunset, never to be seen again. Amazing stuff, but doubly amazing when you consider that he did the same thing less than a week before.

What The Movie Would Look Like:

How would Hollywood interpret this one? We think a great script would star “John Everyman” as a man on the edge. This former bike stuntman for the Yakuza had given up crime and was trying to lead a peaceful life. But when his associates kidnap his family and demand a ransom, he has to get the money the only way he knows how. Here there is no riding up to the casino, but rather he rides the bike right through the casino doors, followed by the ubiquitous Hollywood chase scene through a casino the size of the Venetian as John tries to escape on his bike while performing a myriad of stunts along the way. What would we call it? When The Chips Are Down…

9. Mr. Casino

Mr Casino

Richard Taylor was so good at scamming casinos that he actually acquired the nickname “Mr. Casino”. Apparently it was used so often that people shortened it to just “Mr. C”. It was a nickname well earned because Taylor orchestrated some of the most elaborate casino scams on record, focusing on the high octane play at the craps table. Taylor would set up complex networks of cheaters and dealers who would let tiny rule breaches slide. After some time, these “tiny” breaches resulted in more than $70,000 in losses from two casinos alone. He was able to do all this even after being banned from virtually every casino on the planet. As is often the case with crimes involving casinos, Taylor was eventually caught and sentenced to several decades in prison, thanks to the fact that there were dozens of former dealers willing to testify against him.

What The Movie Would Look Like:
We see Taylor being portrayed by the experienced casino movie actor, Lawrence Fishburne. Lawrence, with his unmistakable voice, would run a network of intelligent, attractive young people who can’t seem to keep their hands off each other – kind of like “Matrix” but with casino chips. However, his calculating character eventually makes a mistake and his second-in-command (why not just throw Jim Sturgess in there) betrays him to the police. In the end everyone will learn the valuable lesson that if you’re going to steal thousands of dollars from a casino, you really should leave as few witnesses as possible.

8. Roberto Solis

Roberto Solis and Heather Tallchief

Roberto Solis wasn’t exactly the nicest person in the world –  and that was before he robbed a casino. In 1969 Solis fatally shot a 61 year-old guard in the back while in the process of robbing an armored car. Twenty-four years later, Solis finally made parole and re-branded himself as the rather fancifully named Julius Suave (seriously). While exploring his new persona, he hooked up with Heather Tallchief, who was 27 years his junior. Tallchief got a job as an armored car driver and one day simply drove off with over $3 million of the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino’s money. She and Solis disguised themselves as an old woman and her doctor, and hopped on a jet to begin their life on the run. In 2005 Tallchief eventually turned herself in, but Solis still remains at large.

What The Movie Would Look Like:
You know what? Don’t change a thing. Just add in a Leon the Professional vibe, make Tallchief even younger, and make Solis dress up as an old woman with Tallchief as a sexy nurse. Everything else about this story is pre-packed Hollywood gold. Starring Danny “God Bless Him He’s Trying Not to be a Stereotype” Trejo and Dakota Fanning.

7. The Stardust Heist

The Stardust Heist

Sometimes the most dangerous person is the one you simply wouldn’t look twice at. This was true of Bill Brennan, a lowly cashier at the Stardust Casino. Brennan didn’t have Clooney’s swagger, Damon’s quick fingers or a contortionist ninja to help him rob the Stardust Casino. All he had was a backpack and a lunch break. In September of 1992, Brennan simply stuffed $500,000 worth of cash into his backpack and calmly walked out the door. To date he has never been found, making this one of the largest casino crimes without a prosecution. Some speculate that Brennan was killed by a possible accomplice, while others point out that a guy who is so unremarkable that he can walk right past armed guards with $500,000 in cash would have no trouble disappearing forever.

What The Movie Would Look Like:
Bill Brennan was your average, run-of-the-mill citizen. He paid his taxes, worked a job he hated, and even helped out at the local Seniors Center on weekends. But after he comes down with terminal cancer, he has one chance to provide for his family and prove himself like he never did before. Coming this Summer: Breaking Bellagio starring Bryan Cranston.

6. The Berlin Poker Heist

The Berlin Poker Heist

In March of 2010, some of the biggest names in poker had descended on Berlin for a shot at the €1 million prize pool. They were ready to use their years of expertise and game knowledge to win. Which is silly because they could have just showed up in balaclavas and waved some guns to get their hands on the money. Which is exactly what a group of thieves did. As the heist kicked off, mass panic ensued as hundreds of people trampled each other fleeing the scene – apparently they weren’t ready to gamble their lives as well as their money. The robbers themselves made off with approximately €200,000 without harming a single patron. However, several people were injured in the panicked stampede as poker players decided discretion was the better part of valor. To add to the insanity of the affair, the entire thing was broadcast live on the internet as part of the tournament coverage.

What The Movie Would Look Like:
This stunning found-footage quasi-documentary of the Berlin Poker Heist will delve deep into many spiritual and capitalist/metaphysical questions that are raised by our modern era. Did broadcasting this event on the internet only serve to increase the risk of a robbery? Are the people who hosted the event the ones really at fault—flaunting large piles of cash in front of a recession-afflicted populace? Is gambling so closely conflated with easy money that it encourages… You know what? That’s probably already enough to get a bunch of snooty urbanites into the theater. Directed by Paul Greengrass.

5. Adam Thomas Vega

Adam Vega

It seems like having $600,000 dollars would make a lot of your problems go away. If you’re a criminal, however, getting that much money in the first place tends to arouse suspicion. A casino will tend to notice when a couple hundred large goes missing. And spending that money requires quite a bit of tact as well, lest the IRS suddenly notice you’re buying more in a week than you make in a year.

Adam Thomas Vega had an elegant solution to the first problem: he would simply “win” all the money legitimately from the casino. The second question caused him to stumble when his employers at the Desert Diamond Casino noticed he was winning a suspicious number of Jackpots. Vega allegedly stole the secret jackpot codes from his bosses, and “won” for the maximum amount that wouldn’t trigger an investigation. And he “won” a couple hundred times in a row.

What The Movie Would Look Like:

A wonky, nerdy Vega works IT at the Desert Diamond Casino. Consistently harassed and degraded by his coworkers, he sets out to prove himself and impress his inexplicably attractive girlfriend. Using his hacker skills, he types some numbers into a screen, spouts some gobbledy-gook about mainframes, and suddenly he’s buying yachts. He’s played by Bradley Cooper, who starts out hunched with long hair and glasses, then takes off his glasses and cuts his hair to give us the impression that the only thing stopping nerds from succeeding at life is posture and hygiene. Which may be correct.

4. The Trash-bag Cashier

The Trash Bag Cashier

In yet another example of lowly cashiers sticking it to the man, casino employee Elizabeth Williams walked out of her work with the amount of $50,000. Williams apparently wasn’t the shiniest chip at the Blackjack table because she perpetrated her heist by emptying the money from the gambling machines directly in front of the security cameras. She might have gotten away with it, however, if her bosses hadn’t noted that three trash-bags went out during her shift, but only two ended up in the casino’s dumpsters.

What The Movie Would Look Like:
In this jaunty romantic comedy, Elizabeth Williams is played by Charlize Theron as a down-on-her-luck single mother. The mounting bills at home lead to her crime, but that’s just where the story begins. Williams and the DA end up falling in love, and the case is dismissed. Proving once again that all you need to succeed in life is Charlize Theron’s body and a rich, powerful man to seduce with it.

3. Laser Roulette

Laser Roulette

Albert Einstein once famously quipped, “You cannot beat a roulette table unless you steal money from it”. Well Einstein didn’t have lasers and super-fast computers. To simplify the science somewhat, according to some math that you will never have to use again, depending on how the roulette ball is dropped it is possible to make a pretty good guess of where it’s going to land on the wheel. The mechanism isn’t perfect, but being able to get it right most of the time can be very lucrative. Casinos actually did know about the math behind this technique, mainly because it’s far too complex for a human to do without a computer – and computers tend to be frowned upon in casinos. Besides, even with all this complexity it is still relatively imprecise with its predictions.

However, a group of criminals at the Ritz casino in London found a way around this. By hooking up invisible lasers to their cell phones, they could track the ball’s movement precisely, and instantly transmit it off-site for analysis. They allegedly made off with upward of $3 million by guessing where the ball would land. There is still some doubt as to whether the criminals actually pulled this off, since signals would have to be sent, analyzed and received within a few seconds (three turns of the roulette wheel).

What The Movie Would Look Like:
A nerdy teenager and his wacky group of friends sit around talking about video games and the lack of girls. According to the logic of every teen movie ever, they decide they need the latest clothes and cars to impress their fellow students. They pull off the heist in a similar fashion, but after they start buying ridiculously unfashionable-yet-expensive clothes authorities figure it out and the jig is up. However these clever nerds use their laser knowledge to remotely delete all evidence from the authorities’ computers (lasers work like that, right?). In the end they learn the true value of friendship. Starring Shia LeBeouf 5 years ago.

2. The Godfather of the Strip

Jose Vigoa

Jose Vigoa was born in Cuba, but ended up in Russia learning to throw hatchets while upside down. Apparently, this was part of his training for the Russian Special Forces, who are also known as Spetsnaz and which are generally accepted to be incredible badasses. Vigoa stormed onto the Las Vegas strip in the 1990s and quickly acquired the nickname “Tony” from the Las Vegas police. As in “Tony Montana” from Scarface.

Vigoa went up and down the strip, robbing hotels, armored cars, casinos and generally murdering his way through anyone who stood against him. When he was finally captured in 2002, he was sentenced to a staggering 500 years in prison – and that was after the plea bargain.

What The Movie Would Look Like:
Scarface remade in Vegas with more opportunities to show off Vigoa’s hand-to-hand expertise. Perhaps they could put him in a locked room with an angry dog and a knife (which is actually part of Spetsnaz training). Hell they could even use the common description of Spetsnaz toughness which claims they “are able to withstand pain that is impossible to deal out” as the tagline.

1. The Perfect Setup

The Perfect Setup

There isn’t much context given to this video which shows five highly-coordinated con artists perfectly setting up a scenario that allows them to snatch $10,000 in plain sight – but it’s too awesome to not include. First, the leader of the group signals for his team to go into action. When he notices a couple looking a bit too closely at him, one of this accomplices distracts them by asking for directions in deliberately broken English. The leader then distracts the man to the mark’s left, an accomplice further distracts the mark with a $100 chip, and $10,000 vanishes from the counter in a heartbeat.

What The Movie Would Look Like:
This is straight-up Oceans 11 material here. You would have to fill in the rest of the character personalities, but that’s not too hard. You just need a wizened old man who’s in for one last score as the leader. An bombastic ethnic stereotype for the person who distracts the couple. Throw in a couple pretty faces and some snappy dialogue and you’re set.