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 Las Vegas' posh Bellagio resort. James Cooper Jr. and Mark Branco were fired by the Bellagio after the scheme came to light, and they were arrested in July 2014, authorities said Thursday. They're named with friends Jeffrey Martin and Anthony 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. "Cheating is common," one official says. "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." Arrests came after another dealer became suspicious and notified casino investigators.
Gambling regulators and fraud control agents spent hours reviewing security video, combing through the suspects' financial records, watching the men work and gamble, and interviewing co-workers and witnesses. 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, says a Nevada State Gaming Control Board deputy chief. A longtime former casino dealer who now works with a Las Vegas security firm terms the scheme a "dealer-agent scam." He says 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," he says. "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 says. (Read more Las Vegas stories.)