Casino Heists: Criminals Are Flush With Creative Ideas


There's no shortage of creativity when it comes to trying to beat the odds in Las Vegas. Granted, this week's theft of up to $1.5 million in casino chips from the Bellagio may have been one of the more direct approaches. The thief merely entered the casino, displayed a gun, pulled the chips off a table and sped away on a black motorcycle, all in less than three minutes, according to Las Vegas Police Lt. Clint Nichols.

While casino heists have been down in the past decade -- Nichols said there are less than a dozen attempts in Vegas each year, and he stressed that this week's event wasn't indicative of an epidemic. Criminals looking to make a quick buck have taken a variety of approaches in their attempts to make like Danny Ocean's crew. Here are 10 casino thefts worth noting:

Big Top
In 1993, Roberto Solis, 48, and his 21-year-old girlfriend Heather Tallchief stole an armored truck outside of Las Vegas' Circus Circus with $2.5 million in cash and were believed to have escaped to the Cayman Islands. Tallchief surrendered in 2005 and was sentenced to 63 months in prison, while Solis has never been found.

High Tech
In 2004, three Eastern European gamblers orchestrated a gambling ring by using a system of computers, lasers and mobile phones to win more than £1.2 million ($1.9 million) at London's Ritz Casino by tracking the speed of a roulette wheel and placing bets accordingly.

No Reservations
Rolando Luda Ramos and two accomplices in 2007 robbed California's Soboba Casino of $1.58 million, making the heist the largest of an Indian reservation casino up to that time. Ramos, who allegedly forced his way into the casino's vault by kidnapping and pepper-spraying security guards, was arrested a few days later.

That's the Ticket
In 2008, Adam Thomas Vega, a slot floor person at the Desert Diamond Casino in Tucson, Ariz., admitted to stealing about $650,000 over two years by getting passwords needed to generate jackpot tickets that paid out as much as $1,199 each. It was the largest theft by an employee in Arizona casino history.

One of FBI's Most Wanted
Bill Brennan, a cashier at the now-demolished Stardust, in 1992 took off with more than $500,000 in cash and casino chips on a lunch break. The heist, featured on America's Most Wanted, was the biggest from a Las Vegas casino at the time. Brennan remains on the FBI's most-wanted list.

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Not a Game
In 2008, two people wearing motorcycle helmets allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel and Casino after pulling guns on the hotel-casino's race and sports-book operators. They remain at large.

Inside Job
Jason Cody Jones, who worked as a security guard at Colorado's J.P. McGill's Casino, was charged with stealing $110,000 from the casino in 2003.

Not So Big Easy
Richard Owens and his accomplice Randy Girouard were charged with armed robbery of Louisiana's Cypress Bayou Casino, where they allegedly stole about $100,000 in cash at gunpoint in 2008.

Taking Out the Trash
In 2006, Elizabeth Williams, a cashier at Louisiana's Riverbend Palace Casino was arrested for stealing more than $52,000 in cash as well as documents. She allegedly took out three bags of "garbage" during her shift -- but only put two of them into the casino's trash bins.

Atlantic City Hold Ups
In 2007, Jason Herring got tens of thousands in cash holding up a handful of cash-advance windows at Atlantic City casinos with a pellet gun before getting caught.

Bellagio Robbery Update: Crime Doesn't Pay

And while it was a dramatic heist at the Bellagio this week, the motorcycle bandit won't be able to cash in his gambling chips for $1.5 million. Casinos track their chips, especially the higher denominations. The plastic chips themselves are worth more like 70 cents a piece -- or the price the casino pays for them.