Ex-Miccosukee Casino Employee Who Tampered With Slots, Embezzled $5 Million Gets Five Years in Federal Prison

Posted on: July 21, 2020, 04:50h. 

Last updated on: July 22, 2020, 09:45h.

A federal judge handed prison sentences to a Florida couple who were part of a scheme to rig gaming machines to embezzle millions from the Miccosukee Resort in West Miami-Dade on Monday.

Miccosukee casino
The Miccosukee Resort just west of Miami was the target of a sophisticated $5 million internal heist. (Image: NBC)

Lester Lavin, 41, was formerly a video-gaming machine technician and supervisor at the Miccosukee tribe-owned casino. In December, he pleaded guilty to conspiring with three colleagues to bilk his employer out of more than $5 million by creating bogus credit vouchers that could be exchanged for cash on the gaming floor.

Lavin will swap a condo in Miami Beach — paid for with his ill-gotten gains — for a federal prison cell after he was sentenced by US District Judge Darrin P. Gayle to more than four years for theft, computer fraud, and money laundering.

His girlfriend, Anisleydi Vergel Hermida, pleaded guilty to a single count of money laundering after she helped Lavin launder the loot. She was sentenced to six months.

Leaky Repairs

Lavin’s three colleagues — Michel Aleu, Yohander Jorrin Melhen, and Leonardo Betancourt – and their spouses — Maria Del Pilar Aleu, Milagros Marile Acosta Torres, and Yusmary Shirley Duran — have also pleaded guilty to similar charges and are awaiting sentencing.

According to prosecutors, the four casino employees would pretend a gaming machine needed to be repaired, which gave them an opportunity to tamper with the machines so that they would generate false “coin-in” amounts, usually for thousands of dollars. The machines would then print credit vouchers that were cashed in at the casino cage by members of the conspiracy who did not work at the casino.

Miccosukee Gaming purchased and leased its gaming machines from Nevada based PlayAGS, according to the indictment. That company was not involved in the case.

The terminals “contained electronic, magnetic, optical, electrochemical, or other high-speed data processing devices, which performed logical, arithmetic, or storage functions, and were directly related to and operated in conjunction with data storage facilities,” prosecutors said.

Hiding Tracks

The group covered up their activities by conducting a hard reset, or “RAM clear,” of a terminal, which would delete the history of the false and fraudulent ‘coin-in’ amounts from the machine.

The scam began in January 2011 and continued through May 2015, netting the group $5.3 million.

As well as the Miami Beach condo, Lavin spent the money securing mortgages on various properties in Miami-Dade County, purchasing prepaid college plans for two of his children, and paying off debts.

Prosecutors claim his share of the haul was at least $654,150.