Forgotten Las Vegas Casino Bomb Plot Revisited in A&E True Crime Series

Posted on: January 11, 2024, 04:37h. 

Last updated on: January 12, 2024, 11:41h.

A new true crime series debuting on A&E Friday revisits a largely forgotten bomb plot against Las Vegas casinos in its first episode.

Jeffrey Tenpenny, Las Vegas, bomb plot, casinos, Undercover: Caught on Tape
Jeffrey Tenpenny, pictured above in surveillance video from the case, planned to bomb Las Vegas casinos. But why was the case underreported at the time and so quickly forgotten? (Image: A&E via Jackson Progress Argus)

The show Undercover: Caught on Tape follows undercover law enforcement agents during some of their most dangerous assignments through surveillance video and audio recordings from actual investigations.

On Friday, the show revisits the case of Jeffrey Tenpenny, a Las Vegas man with a serious grudge against the Mirage and the Golden Nugget, then properties owned by Steve Wynn’s Mirage Resorts.

Casino Vendetta

Tenpenny purchased bombs with the intent of blowing both properties sky-high. He also planned to murder Carolyn Ellsworth, an attorney for Wynn and now a senior Nevada judge.

Unfortunately for Tenpenny, but happily for everyone else, the people who sold him the bombs were undercover agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).

Previously, Tenpenny was injured in an elevator accident at the Golden Nugget and sued the casino for damages. The trigger for his vendetta against Mirage Resorts and Ellsworth was the repeated postponement of the trial, according to a Las Vegas Sun article that reported on his sentencing at the time.

Tenpenny’s public defender tried to characterize his client as a harmless “braggart” who was simply “venting,” and who would have never gone ahead with the plot. Tenpenny blamed the elevator accident for epilepsy and memory loss, and claimed his personality had changed after the incident.

U.S. District Judge Philip Pro ultimately disagreed. He called Tenpenny’s plans “horrific,” and sentenced him to seven years, the maximum term available.

“God only knows what might have happened” had Tenpenny been in touch with “misfits” rather than federal agents, Pro said at sentencing, the Sun reported.

Media Silence

Those agents were Jay Dobyns and Vince Cefalu, who discussed the case in-depth on the show.

Dobyns described it as a “significant investigation,” adding that he was surprised that it didn’t garner more column inches and that it was so quickly forgotten.

[…] In this bombing case, you had a guy there who was actively planning to set off IEDs [improvised explosive devices] in Las Vegas casinos, and it didn’t get much attention,” he told TV Insider this week.

“It was ultimately explained to me that the media in Las Vegas initially put that on the back burner,” Dobyns said. “They were like, ‘This town and the people thrive on tourism. Who wants a story on the front page that says three of our leading casinos were about to be bombed?’ Now we’re at almost 30 years, and A&E, with this series, is giving everyone a firsthand.”

Undercover: Caught on Tape premieres on A&E on January 11, at 10 p.m. est/9 p.m. cst.