LAS VEGAS (AP) — Two former casino dealers and two friends are accused of siphoning more than $1 million off craps tables over two years, using phantom bets at a posh Las Vegas Strip resort.
James Russell Cooper Jr. and Mark William Branco were fired by the Bellagio after the scheme came to light and they were arrested in July 2014, prosecutor Jay P. Ramen said Thursday.
Cooper and Branco are named with Jeffrey D. Martin and Anthony Grant Granito in a 60-count indictment filed Wednesday. The charges include cheating at gambling and theft — felonies that could get the defendants decades in prison.
The dice game scam involved the dealers accepting late or unclear bets and paying out winnings at times when colleagues and supervisors generally weren't aware what was happening, said James Taylor, a Nevada State Gaming Control Board deputy chief.
"Cheating is common," Taylor told The Associated Press. "We arrest 350 to 500 people a year for cheating or theft from a casino. But to have it go this long and for this much money is unusual."
"Fortunately, someone noticed and came forward," he said.
Ramen, a chief deputy Clark County district attorney, said the arrests came after another dealer became suspicious and notified casino investigators.
Gambling regulators and fraud control agents from Bellagio parent company MGM Resorts International spent many hours reviewing security video, combing through the suspects' financial records, watching the men work and gamble, and interviewing co-workers and witnesses, Taylor said.
"They were making wagers after the outcome was known and paying them off, or they were just putting wagers in and paying them out," Taylor said.
Cooper, 43, cooperated following his arrest and testified before the grand jury. Ramen called it helpful to have a witness provide an inside account of the complex scheme.
A judge issued arrest warrants Wednesday. Arraignment dates weren't immediately set.
Martin's attorney, James Oronoz, said his client will plead not guilty and looks forward to his day in court. Attorneys for the other men didn't immediately respond to messages.
Jim Tatonetti, a longtime former casino dealer who now works with a Las Vegas security firm, Griffin Investigations, termed the scheme a "dealer-agent scam." He said a craps table can get crowded, with players and spectators surrounding casino dealers, floor supervisor and others.
"If you have a dirty inside person, he can slide a bet to the boxman and then just pay out whatever the (dice) roll is," Tatonetti said. "If the bet is not clearly identified, it can be ambiguous for when a payout happens."
Other cheating can involve scammers trying to bet late or confuse the stickman during the roll of the dice, he said.
MGM Resorts spokesman Gordon Absher said the company plans to continue to cooperate with the prosecution.