An ex-casino dealer and his brother-in-law have pleaded not guilty to swindling Bellagio casino in Las Vegas out of more than $1m with phantom craps bets over a two-year span.
On Tuesday, Clark County District Court Judge Valerie Adair set $160,000 bail for Mark Branco, a former Bellagio employee and the alleged ringleader of the scheme. Branco’s brother-in-law Jeffrey Martin’s bail was set at $125,000 and he was allowed to come up with the money while out of jail. The judge gave each two weeks to raise the money and were due back in court on Oct 20th.
Adair also withdrew an arrest warrant issued last week for co-defendant Anthony Granito after his lawyer, Dennis Myron Leavitt, said Granito, was undergoing open heart surgery on Tuesday in Las Vegas. Granito’s court date was reset to Nov. 3.
Former craps dealer and co-defendant James Cooper Jr. is now cooperating with authorities and is scheduled to plead guilty on Thursday to one felony theft charge in a plea deal that calls for him to testify against the others, said prosecutor Jay Ramen and defense attorney Amy Chelini. A total of 55 other charges against Cooper will be dropped and he could face 1-5 years in state prison.
Gambling regulators and fraud-control agents from Bellagio parent company MGM Resorts International spent days reviewing security videos, watching the men work and gamble, checking the men’s financial accounts and interviewing co-workers and witnesses, said James Taylor, a deputy chief of the Nevada State Gaming Control Board.
Taylor said Cooper and Branco would accept wagers from Martin and Granito after the dice roll was known, or set wagers aside and simply pay out whether the bets won or not.
Defense lawyer Leavitt, who wants to determine how much money was won legitimately, said that his client sometimes underpaid players, adding, “Not everybody who plays craps loses. Sometimes you win. And when you win, that’s not cheating at gambling.”
According to MGM statistician Zachary Levine, the odds of the group winning as much as they did is roughly 452-billion-to-1.
“Their play over that period was so out of line with the mathematics that it’s practically no way they could have been playing a fair game of chance,” said Levine. “We have some very extreme high-end play at the Bellagio that can result in pretty wild swings, and we have some winners, so we’re not saying that winning is impossible, just nobody, even bigger bettors, won to this level.”
Granito and Martin would have been expected to lose $712,029 but instead they won $1,086,400.