Casino Crime Watch: $700K Heist, Baccarat Scam, Guilty In Colorado

Casinos have always attracted their fair share of crooks looking to score an easy payday. Housing large sums of cash and operating around the clock, these gaming establishments remain prime targets for thieves and scammers willing to roll the dice on stealing big. 

In recent weeks, several high-profile casino scammers have made headlines nationwide with indictments, guilty pleas, and other charges.

$700K Michigan Casino Heist

The sheer audacity and size of the illegal scam makes it hard to top the late July 2023 incident at Michigan’s Four Winds Casino. According to federal prosecutors, a man identified as Jesus Gaytan-Garcia orchestrated an elaborate confidence scheme that duped the casino into willingly handing over more than $700,000 in cash.

Court documents seen by CBS News allege Gaytan-Garcia called Four Winds pretending to be a high-ranking official for the property’s ownership group, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. Speaking with what officials described as a calm, authoritative voice, he spun an urgent tale convincing a casino supervisor to withdraw $700,000 in cash from the vault.

That money was then transported to a gas station rendezvous in nearby Gary, Indiana, and handed off to two unidentified accomplices posing as legitimate couriers. By the time casino staff realized they’d been conned, the mysterious callers and $700,000 cash had vanished.

U.S. Attorney Says the Scheme was Particularly Egregious

U.S. Attorney Mark Totten declared the sum of money implicated in the Grand Rapids casino theft to be particularly ‘egregious.’ He added that telephone scams at casinos are regrettably increasing nationwide, affecting both tribal and commercial gaming establishments.

Unlike Erik Gutierrez Martinez, who received a suspended sentence for his role in a scam that saw Circa Casino in Las Vegas lose over $1 million, Michigan authorities eventually tracked down and charged Gaytan-Garcia. However, no further details have been released regarding the identities, whereabouts, or potential recovery of funds involving his alleged co-conspirators.

The incident is part of rampant social engineering-style ploys that bypass casinos’ physical security measures. With millions in cash constantly changing hands, a misplaced phone call and lapse in protocol can quickly escalate into multi-million losses.

$300K Baccarat Scam

While not quite as massive, a months-long cheating scheme at Pennsylvania’s Wind Creek Casino in Bethlehem generated a $300,000 payday for one con man and his team. According to investigators, the illegal operation focused on rigging baccarat results through sophisticated card marking and data sharing.

Police allege the scheme’s ringleader was Qingyong Zhang, a skilled baccarat player who would use slight physical blemishes imprinted on the backs of playing cards to record their values. Zhang then covertly recorded this data using his smartphone, phoning his findings to accomplices safely planted throughout the casino.

With a real-time data feed on the sequence of cards to be dealt next, Zhang’s team could place accurate bets and tilt the odds overwhelmingly in their favor. After running this system across multiple baccarat sessions, police finally caught on and arrested four ring members.

According to, Yuan Lu, Zu Lin, Zhencan Chen, and Liping Zhou were arrested. Unfortunately for casino security, Zhang and another key accomplice fled the scene with their ill-gotten $300,000 cash winnings. 

The remaining suspects now face felony corrupt organization charges, while the fugitives remain on the lam. Details surrounding the long-running con raised eyebrows among casino regulators, coming just months after an ex-Las Vegas baccarat dealer, Yuxuan Leng, was arrested for similar cheating activities that occurred in 2022.

Colorado’s Record $500K Casino Heist

While most gamblers dream of hitting a huge jackpot, real-life heists offer their own, albeit illegal, rush for scammers. In March 2023, a cash room scheme at Colorado’s Monarch Casino stole over $500,000, one of the largest casino heists in state history.

The alleged mastermind was Sabrina Eddy, a then 45-year-old Monarch cage cashier. Prosecutors accuse Eddy of smuggling out nightly cash drops stored in secure cash boxes and loading them into a getaway vehicle. In total, she is believed to have swiped ten cash boxes, each containing $50,000 worth of cash from the casino’s vault.

Eddy’s original story claimed she had been duped by a scam phone caller impersonating a casino supervisor. This person – likely an inside accomplice – ordered her to remove funds to avert a botched armored car delivery.

Following those purported instructions, Eddy drove two separate loads totaling $500,000 to a nearby hospital parking lot. Waiting at the rendezvous point was 32-year-old Juan Ivan Gutierrez Zambrano, who took possession of the cash-filled boxes before disappearing with Eddy’s loot.

But Eddy’s story quickly fell apart under interrogation. She eventually admitted to concocting the scam call excuse and conspiring with Zambrano and at least one additional unidentified co-conspirator.

While investigators were able to recover some evidence, including photos linking Zambrano to the drop site, the $500,000 itself remains at large.

In a recent plea deal, Zambrano pled guilty to reduced charges of criminal mischief in exchange for likely deportation to Mexico after sentencing. But prosecutors remain committed to bringing down Eddy and the remaining ringleaders, setting up a high-profile trial this August.

Wrapping Up

These three jarring incidents showcase the diverse array of low-tech and sophisticated tactics that today’s casino criminals employ to try to beat the house. These scams can persist for months before detection, while unwitting employees sometimes aid them.

In an era of rampant telephone scams and deep-fake technology, even voice authentication security may no longer suffice as crooks find innovative ways to game the system.

As legalized gaming continues expanding across the United States, the threats posed by lean, experienced criminal networks are sure to evolve in lockstep. Operators will be challenged to invest heavily in cutting-edge countermeasures, train staff diligence to new heights, and forge collaborative partnerships with law enforcement to combat savvy casino raiders.

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