A former Mohegan Sun executive appeared in court this week charged with conspiracy to defraud his former employer out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Robert Pellegrini, 50, who was the VP of player development for the Mohegan Sun Pocono casino in Pennsylvania at the time of the alleged fraud, is accused of conspiring with a cocktail waitress, Rochelle Poszeluznyj, 37, and a regular customer, Mark Joseph Heltzel, 51, to scam slot machines out of cash by using bogus loyalty rewards.
The court heard that between May 2, 2014, and April 4, 2015, the trio allegedly used $478,100 in free slot play to generate $418,793 in illicit cash winnings.
According to prosecutors, Poszeluznyj would note down player’s loyalty cards and PIN numbers as she served them drinks, before passing them on to Pellegrini, who would create duplicate cards charged with free slot money.
Heltzel would then use the cards to play slots, with the winnings split among the group, the prosecution alleges.
Spreading the free play over numerous loyalty cards helped to conceal the fraud, which went unnoticed until a dealer at the casino, and a rival with Heltzel for Poszeluznyj’s affections, apparently spilled the beans in a fit of jealousy.
Croupier Matthew Crane told police of the scheme in April 2015, which, he said, predated Poszeluznyj’s involvement, and was referred to as “a handshake” by the two men.
Police said Crane’s story was corroborated by casino surveillance video, which showed Heltzel using five different players cards to win $1,880. Reward scheme records, meanwhile, revealed that between three and six players cards were frequently being issued at once, and then used immediately, often at the same slot machine.
“This was a very elaborate scheme on the part of these three individuals to defraud the casino of a significant amount of money,” said Assistant District Attorney Tom Marsilio for the prosecution.
This is the not the first time that Heltzel has been accused of defrauding the Mohegan Sun Pocono. In 2011, he was charged with putting late bets on the blackjack table.
He was never barred from Mohegan Sun as a result of that incident, because, according to his lawyer, “[he] was [held] in high regard with the casino.”
This no longer appears to be the case. Heltzel is now facing 175 mostly felony counts of theft, identity theft, criminal conspiracy, and winning by fraud. His bail has been set at $500,000.
Pellegrini, meanwhile, has 177 counts to answer for, including theft, identity theft, criminal conspiracy, winning by fraud, computer trespassing, and misapplying trusted property.
Each offense carries maximum penalties ranging from five to 10 years in prison.