Fraudster in Old Man Disguise Stole $125,000 in Casino Scam, Pleads Guilty
Posted on: April 8, 2021, 09:09h.
Last updated on: April 8, 2021, 10:19h.
A Michigan man who donned prosthetic “old man” facemasks while bilking casino customers out of more than $125,000 has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and identity fraud in a federal court in Detroit.
John Christopher Colletti, 56, wore a variety of latex and silicone masks while withdrawing gamblers’ money from kiosks at casinos in Michigan and Kansas between April 26, 2019, and March 12, 2020.
According to prosecutors, Colletti used personal information bought from hackers online including names, driver’s license numbers, and the last four digits of Social Security Numbers. He used this to access accounts belonging to VIP Preferred program customers at the kiosks.
VIP Preferred is an e-wallet for cashless wagering owned by fintech giant Global Payments. It also allows a customer to withdraw their funds in cash at the Global Payments kiosks.
Master of Disguise
Colletti first appeared on law enforcement’s radar in 2019, when the MGM Grand in Detroit reported that ten of its customers had been victims of identity theft in April and May of that year alone.
Studying security footage, investigators identified a suspect who was making the withdrawals at casinos around Detroit. He appeared to be wearing the prosthetic mask of an elderly man, with a variety of hats, glasses, or surgical masks.
On May 23, 2019, after withdrawing $30,000 from the MGM Grand, Colletti hailed a cab to Greektown, where he turned up on the security cameras outside the Pegasus Taverna Restaurant on Monroe Street.
There, he headed to the restroom, where he ditched the disguise. When he reappeared, investigators saw the suspect’s real face for the first time.
Next, Colletti turned up at the Prairie Band Casino in the Prairie Band of Potawatomi Reservation in Kansas. After withdrawing $20,000, he was told to go to the cage to give his social security number for reporting purposes, since it was a large transaction.
Instead, Colletti went to the restroom to remove his disguise. He emerged shortly afterward and headed to the exit with a noticeable bulge — his mask — in the front of his pants. Security found clothes, a walker, $11,000 in cash, and two fake driver’s licenses in restroom.
Colletti was arrested shortly afterward.
Global Payments assumed the loss on behalf of Colletti’s victims. As part of his plea deal, he has agreed to repay the full $125,740 to the company.
He will be sentenced on July 7 and faces up to 20 years in prison.
“John Colletti stole the identities of dozens of innocent people, dragging them all into his criminal scheme,” said Timothy Waters, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office. “The impacts of identity theft are serious and far-reaching for victims, and the FBI will work hard to ensure anyone who engages in this type of conduct is held accountable.”
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