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Real Life Ocean's Eleven – 7 of the Biggest Casino Heists in HistoryBy Shane Addinall Jun 30, 2022The majority of us make a living off good-old honest and hard work, but some members of society choose a different path for themselves. The individuals in today's blog agreed that the straight-and-narrow isn't for them.
Today's topic takes us on a journey where honour and rules fell by the wayside. Here follows 7 of the most high-profile casino heists of our time and the drama that came with them.
Truthfully, Danny and Rusty had much better plans than these busted criminals, but uncovering what bizarre ideas people come up with to con their way into riches, also makes for brilliant entertainment.
If true-crime docu-series are your thing and the Ocean's Eleven crew had you from the word go, these tales are perfect for you. Join us as we investigate huge casino heists and the schemes behind them.
✓ A Bike, A Bandit, and the Belaggio
As the world's most famous gambling hub, Las Vegas is like a shiny object to a crow for brazen criminals. It comes as no surprise then that Vegas holds the most prolific tales of casino robberies.
Some of Sin City's grand casinos even have more than one tale to tell. The iconic Bellagio casino resort is one such venue, but today we focus on the biggest hit at this glorious facility.
The story isn't quite as thrilling and intricate as Danny and his eleven would like it to be, but it includes a self-proclaimed bandit wearing a helmet with a bike as his escape vehicle. Referred to as the Biker Bandit, Anthony Carleo set his sights on the high-stakes craps table. Purportedly, Carleo himself was high on more than life and approached the craps table with his bike helmet and a firearm.
Carleo managed to grab casino chips worth $1.5 million on that early morning in 2010 and got away with it. That was until his ego got the better of him, and he bragged about his victorious heist to a dealer. Much to his disappointment, the Belaggio discontinued the $25,000 chips he stole, forcing his hand. Carleo made a rookie mistake by creating an online profile to sell his casino chips.
Surprisingly, he found a buyer! Predictably, it was a cop. Tony Carleo was sentenced to prison for 9 years.
✓ A Poet, Romance, and Robbery
Someone dived too deep into her action-romance novels and thought she fashioned herself a real-life Clyde. This high-profile heist involves trickery that could make many of the others on this list look like child play. The year was 1993, and Roberto Solis, an award-winning poet, had just tasted the satisfaction of being a free man as he walked out of prison after 17 years of captivity. His girlfriend, Heather Tallchief, was 27 years younger than him and adored her bad boyfriend.
Coincidentally or not, Tallchief worked for an armoured security company, Lumis, that Solis tried to rob in 1969. The 21-year-old security truck driver and her convict boyfriend planned a perfect heist. The trucks from Lumis contained huge amounts of cash to refill ATMs at casinos, and Tallchief succeeded at driving off with one meant for the Circus Circus casino in Las Vegas.
With $3 million in the back of the armoured vehicle, Tallchief met Solice at an abandoned warehouse where they must have been in a hurry and only took $2.5 million of the cash.
Apparently, there is no honour among thieves, as Heather decided to turn herself in more than a decade later when Roberto abandoned her and their son. Tallchief testified that Solis left them with nothing but $1,000, and she could no longer live with the guilt. The convicted robber and murderer, Roberto Solis, remains at large, while Tallchief received a 5-year sentence.
✓ An Inside Job at Soboba Casino
As casino employees know the most about daily operations in their workplace, it only makes sense that there must be an inside job heist, right? The duo who thought they duped Soboba Casino security in 2007 matched these credentials perfectly. Apparently, the temptation of constantly being around millions in cash got to Rolando Ramos and Eric Aguilera.
Aguilera was a former employee of Soboba Casino, Riverside County, but had his sights sets on much bigger things, so he moved on from the casino employ. Their plan required that Ramos remain in service of the casino, as his access to security cameras was key to the heist. The 25-year-old Ramos did all the work while Aguilera waited in the car.
He tied up three of the employees on duty and tricked the guards into taking him to the vault. It was only when Ramos pulled out a gun that the unsuspecting guards realised they had problems.
Ramos and Aguilera got away with $1.5 million in cash, and a high-speed car chase ensued. The duo were arrested within 48 hours, and Rolando Ramos added in his statement that he was high on cocaine during the robbery and the gun was, in fact, a BB gun.
Whether this was true or just his way of trying for a lower sentence is unclear. If so, the judge didn't fall for it because their bail was set at $250,000.
✓ At Family Affair at Stardust Casino
As we have seen in many true-crime docu-series, sinister parents have a tremendous influence on their children. More often than not, they abuse their position to create criminals.
The Hopper family had the curse of a master-mind father who dragged his sons into his greedy schemes. As fate would have it, Jeffrey and Bobby Hopper's dad, Royal Hopper, held an important position at the Stardust casino in Las Vegas.
In September 1991, Hopper senior convinced his son to rob the casino while he was on duty. Bobby ambushed his dad and a co-worker during a cash transfer in the casino and escaped with $150,000. Pa Hopper reported the robbery and deflected any suspicion from himself. Later, Hopper senior reeled in his other son for the next job as a big armoured truck heist required all three Hoppers.
They disguised themselves with wigs and beards and used smoke bombs to distract the truck drivers. Sounds like a Hollywood blockbuster, right? Much to Hopper senior's satisfaction, his family business made more than one million dollars that day. The Hooper's victory was short-lived as the authorities caught them soon after the heist.
Royal Hopper was sentenced to 17 years in prison for being a bad father and a robber. In a surprising turn of events, one of the Hopper brothers turned a page and became a pastor for prison inmates.
✓ Physics, Probability, and the Perfect Crime
This extremely interesting story takes us to the Northern parts of our globe as the accused trio targeted a glamourous UK casino. To the standard gambler, terms like 'orbital decay' and 'sector targeting' may be foreign. But to a group of physics graduates, its mouthwatering theoretical terminology, and three Eastern-European gamblers made Mega Moolah with it.
In 2004, the Ritz Casino in London had no idea what would follow. Two male and one female gamblers approached their roulette table and proceeded to place a bet. The unsuspecting croupier spun the wheel and dropped the ball. A short while later, the friends walked away with £100,000 in winnings. They returned the following evening, won a staggering £1.2 million in approximately 3 hours, and triggered suspicion with the pit boss.
As it turns out, the lucky gamblers had a lot more than luck on their side. The gamblers reportedly used laser scanners and microcomputers to calculate where the ball would land based on the spin of the wheel. This gave them a much higher probability of winning.
While the cheaters were reported to the authorities, they walked away with their winnings as the court decided no crime was committed. A lifetime ban from London casinos as the only punishment, £1.3 million in winnings, and proof that physics can predict the outcome of roulette makes this a perfect crime.
✓ High Roller and VIP Services Manager Tried to Take The Crown
Honestly, most casino robberies are inside jobs, and this story is one of the most high-profile crimes in the casino industry. The incident in question took place a little further South from the previous tale and includes a millionaire, a casino employee, and a cocktail with a $12,500 price tag. Security staff at Crown Casino in Perth, New Zealand, nearly had the wool pulled over their eyes in 2013. But, once again, greed exposed the criminals for who they are.
How exactly the two malefactors knew each other is unclear, but James Manning and a VIP services manager from the casino staged a massive heist from the high-limit card tables. Because The Crown never reported the culprits to the police, details on the entire situation vary from one source to the next, but the core facts match up.
Manning had a PR appointment with The Crown. The millionaire would purchase a famous cocktail at the casino containing cognac found on the Titanic for $12,500. A VIP services manager invited Manning to enjoy high-stakes gambling before the cocktail event.
During his time at the tables, the high-roller confidently placed his bets and beat his opponents for 8 straight hands. Walking away with an eye-watering pot worth $32 million, Manning thought he had duped the casino.
Unfortunately, security officials discovered his secret. Through hacked cameras and signals from the VIP services manager, Manning cheated his way through all eight games. The Crown never reported him, but they did get most of their money back and threw the cheater out of their casino.
✓ Is it a Crime to be Clever?
Talking about unfair advantages reminds us of a tale that inspired a major Hollywood movie and deserves an honourable mention in today's blog.
Thanks to Kevin Spacey, Jim Sturgess, and Kate Bosworth, most movie fans know about this drama that took place during the 90s. The Harvard graduate Bill Kaplan trained select students from MIT in card counting and started a business out of winning blackjack games. The MIT Blackjack Team became notorious and won millions with their card counting techniques from casinos all over the world.
Technically, card-counting is not a crime, but it will get you banned from a casino as the skill breaks house-edge down to fractions of a percentage. Some see it as an unfair advantage and cheating, while others believe it is ok to outsmart your opponents.
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