2 arrested in Vegas casino heist of $33K in chips

AP News
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Posted: Feb 25, 2011 11:17 PM
2 arrested in Vegas casino heist of $33K in chips

A cabbie and another man were arrested on suspicion of being in cahoots with a wig-wearing gunman who snatched $33,000 in chips from a Las Vegas casino, police said Friday.

The search was still on, however, for the robber who threatened a poker dealer with an unloaded gun before fleeing in a waiting taxi.

The stickup was the second grab-and-run heist in Sin City in two months. In December, a bandit snatched $1.5 million in chips from a craps table at the Bellagio casino then sped away on a motorcycle.

Police do not believe the holdups were connected or were linked to organized crime.

The gunman in Thursday's holdup, identified as Steven Gao, 45, went to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino and grabbed the chips from a pai gow table before fleeing in a taxi driven by 61-year-old Hiroyuki Yamaguchi, robbery Lt. Ray Steiber said.

Yamaguchi was arrested within hours of the heist, after Gao was dropped off at another casino, where police said he met suspect Edward Land and gave him $17,000 in stolen chips to repay a debt.

Land, 41, later told police Gao robbed the casino as a way to pay back the money, according to an arrest report.

Land said he drove Gao to the Rio on the day of the heist and became suspicious when Gao donned a fake mustache and wig.

"Land said he knew Gao was 'going to do something,'" the report said. "Land said he told Gao that he was 'crazy,' and Gao told him, 'Don't worry about it.'"

Land said he later drove Gao to catch a bus to California.

Yamaguchi and Gao worked together at the same taxi company.

Police found Yamaguchi after obtaining an identification number from the cab used by the gunman after the holdup and tracking it through the taxi company.

Land was located through a phone call Gao made from a pay phone, the report said.

Authorities recovered nearly $17,000 in chips and a wig from Land's home, and $1,000 in chips and a silver revolver from Yamaguchi's cab, according to the arrest report.

Yamaguchi and Land were being held in the Clark County jail for investigation of robbery, burglary and conspiracy. Bail for each was set at $25,000.

The robbery came after the stickup at the Bellagio hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

Police have arrested Anthony Carleo, 29, the son of a Las Vegas judge, in connection with that robbery. He has not yet entered a plea and remained in Clark County jail with bail set at $1 million.

The Rio is owned by Caesars Entertainment, the world's largest gambling company by revenue, and is home to the annual World Series of Poker.

The Bellagio robbery involved chips mostly worth $25,000 _ a denomination unusual for most gamblers to possess. Chips worth $1,000 or less are far more common in Nevada casinos, making them tougher to track.