Lobster tails are considered a delicacy, and an expensive one. But what Alex Hernandez, 49, a chef at the chichi Bellagio on the Las Vegas Strip, was thinking when he reportedly made the decision this week to take home 25 of the expensive tails crammed into a backpack is hard to imagine.
Spotted by the eye-in-the-sky, the long claw of the law quickly had him in its grasp.
Crime and Punishment
MGM Resorts, Bellagio’s parent company, said each lobster tail is valued at $75, meaning Hernandez’s illegal “catch” was worth a total of $1,875. Casino security called Metro Police after noticing the chef’s actions on surveillance cameras, and officers then intercepted the crustacean heist.
The chef faces one count of embezzlement. According to Shoehouse Law, a Las Vegas criminal defense firm, embezzlement crimes in Nevada worth between $650 and less than $3,500 are punishable by restitution, up to $10,000 in fines, and up to five years in prison.
Hernandez is currently free on a $5,000 bail bond.
Tail Between His Legs
MGM didn’t say at which Bellagio restaurant Hernandez worked, and several have menu items that include lobster. But Prime Steakhouse, the resort’s AAA-rated Four Diamond Award restaurant, features cold water lobster tails on its menu.
Online commentators are squealing over MGM’s valuation of each lobster tail.
“If 25 lobster tails are worth $1,800, the cook isn’t the only one stealing,” one post read.
Another stated, “The real robbery here is charging $75 for a lobster tail.”
Selvin Salazar, a cook who works for the Cousins Maine Lobster food truck in Las Vegas, told KSNV that tails are pricy due to being predominantly shipped in from Maine. He added that tails spoil quickly, meaning without ice — which Hernandez presumably didn’t have in his bag — his loot wouldn’t have been worth a cup of melted butter.
The Lobster Guy, an online lobster store that ships anywhere in the US directly from Maine, is currently selling two 10-12 oz. Maine lobster tails for $59.00, with free overnight shipping.
Reached by KSNV, Hernandez’s son said pops was just trying to put food on the table, albeit in a rather extravagant way.
“He only did it because of his family,” Kenny Hernandez said of his father. “He wouldn’t do it just to sell the lobsters to buy drugs.”
We’re so moved, it’s like Tiny Tim in Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol all over again.
Last fall, the Bellagio poker room cage was robbed at gunpoint. The thief made off with an undisclosed sum of cash and has yet to be found. Four similar thefts occurred at four Las Vegas casinos last month, but police do not believe they’re being carried out by the same people.
Metro Police Lt. Michael Mauntel said the frequency of casino robberies right now is “unusual,” and he’s “concerned that they are happening a little too often.”
Strip casinos New York-New York, Harrah’s, and SLS were all robbed, as was Ellis Island. South Point was additionally robbed this month, but suspects in that theft have been apprehended.
The most unusual robbery story out of Las Vegas in 2017 came at the hands of an area preacher. Former pastor Gregory Bolusan is accused of robbing the M Resort casino three times last fall with a fake gun. Whether or not a trial date has been set, mum’s been the word since the initial story broke in November.
Las Vegas casinos have historically been known to keep attention to crime on their properties to an absolute minimum.