A former Bellagio craps dealer in Las Vegas, who helped con his ex-employer out of over $1 million was sentenced this week to between three and five years in prison.
James Cooper Jr., 44, pleaded guilty to one count of theft for his participation in a long-running scam at the dice table.
Cooper, along with his fellow croupier Mark Branco, allowed two accomplices, Jeffrey Martin and Anthony Granito, to place phony bets at their craps tables.
This would take place at times when there were few gamblers around and so the games were subject to lower levels of scrutiny.
The three other men have already been sentenced. Branco, the ringleader of the scam, was handed ten years, while his two accomplices both received 8.3 years.
Cooper received a lighter sentence because he cooperated with authorities.
Analyzing Surveillance Tapes
During the trial, the court heard that Branco and Cooper would accept late or unclear bets when colleagues’ backs were turned. Typically, Martin and Granito would place a few genuine bets and occasionally mutter something that sounded like a hop bet (a high-risk vocalized bet) as the dice were thrown, and were then paid as if they had bet correctly on the outcome.
The scheme wasn’t particularly sophisticated but, remarkably, the cheaters got away with it for around two years, until the summer of 2014, when another croupier became suspicious and reported his colleagues to the Bellagio management.
In April, Bellagio fraud-control executive Sharon Tibbits told the courts that investigators had spent thousands of hours painstakingly trying to piece together the defendants’ losses and wins, as well as which bets were legitimate and which weren’t.
She said that one series of winning bets defied odds of 452-billion to 1.
“It seems to me that when these offenders concocted this scheme and executed it time and time again, they had to realize that, if apprehended, the likely outcome was prison,” said the judge, on handing down the three lengthy sentences. “I’m not aware of any other offenders receiving probation for like amounts.”
But lawyers for the four men disputed the amount prosecutors said had been stolen by the illegal gambling scheme from the Bellagio, some $1,086,400, because the men also won and lost money on genuine bets.
Granito suffered a heart attack when he heard about the initial 60-count indictment against him.
Cooper said he was sorry for his actions and that he “got caught up in greed.”
“I am actually a good citizen,” he told the judge.