It happens in the movies despite apparent obstacles and seems to go down without a hitch. A dashing protagonist designs an elaborate scheme to pull off the heist of all time and get away with millions. George Clooney’s character in Oceans 11, 12, and 13 portrays that mastermind behind the intricate scheme to rob one….. or three Vegas Casinos simultaneously. And in Ocean’s 11, 12, and 13, the villains score and walk away unscathed, or relatively so. So do the movies inspire the real-life casino bandits, or is it the real-life villains that provide the storyline for the movies? The Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas set the stage for Ocean’s 11 back in 2001 but far more recently it became the stage for a daring thief riding a black motorcycle, clad in a jumpsuit, and brandishing a gun to roll in, walk up to the craps table and demand payout. He then rolled out just as quickly, as reports indicate that he was in and out in less than three minutes. To date the masked man has not been apprehended.
They Don’t Always Get Away……
It comes as no surprise that there are more casino robberies in Las Vegas, after all it is the casino hot spot in the U.S. A recent report indicates that a man by the name of Michael Belton, California native and his partner in crime approached a $100 minimum bet blackjack table at none other than - the Bellagio. He and his unidentified accomplice weren’t there to lay down $100 a pop to try their hand at Blackjack, as the story goes. This duo came armed with pepper spray and intentions of getting away with a jackpot. Evidently a slight malfunction with the pepper spray gave Casino floor supervisors time to tackle Belton as he bolted for the door with 23 chips worth $115,000 in his grip. Belton claims to have been recruited on Craigslist by a third unknown man who allegedly advertised a job repossessing cars, but subsequently requested assistance with the robbery. According to Clark County sources Belton is the only man in custody for this heist gone awry.
In the early 90’s an employee at the Stardust in Las Vegas sauntered out for lunch break with his backpack full of chips, but no sandwiches. In this Casino caper, Bill Brennan wasn’t planning on potato chips for lunch, he had a bag full of chips and cash. Enough cash to buy hundreds of delectable lunches at any Casino in Las Vegas that took his fancy. He walked away with over $500,000 in cash and Stardust’s chips and has never been seen since. Legend has it that he had a partner who later killed him for the bread. Police are confident that Brennan worked alone. In yet another Vegas account, this time in front of the Circus Circus Casino, a young lady named Heather Tallchief, 21, slid away in a Loomis Armored truck filled with $2.5 Million. Her accomplice, convicted murderer Roberto Solis, allegedly orchestrated this foray in the fall of 1993. The pair fled the U.S. together via the Cayman Islands and St. Martin, and Solis subsequently left her and their son with a mere $1,000. Eventually Tallchief turned herself into authorities and was handed a 63 month prison sentence after evading the law for over 12 years. It’s a crap shoot as to who gets caught and who gets away.
Casinos Under Siege
Maybe it’s the well-known ‘fact’ that “What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas”, or maybe it’s the stockpiles of money that are riddled throughout sin city, but the Casino’s in Vegas seem predisposed to an onslaught of robberies, historically speaking. Robberies and grand schemes are certainly not a new phenomenon. Nor do highly secure facilities or potential lucrative marks deter all ‘would-be’ bandits from taking a risk for substantial profit. It would seem that all of the casinos, and particularly the exclusive, high-class, and high-stakes hot spots would be air-tight on the security front. Casinos employ highly trained security staff, install high tech surveillance equipment, embed special radio frequency devices inside of the house chips, place alarm buttons for dealers to push in the event of an emergency, and some even have a glass walkway above the casino floor with one-way glass and known in the gaming industry as “the eye in the sky”. These methods are designed to protect against the schemes and ruses that have been, and always will be, part of the gamble.
The Bellagio Casino – Infamous Target
Mark Brennan got away with the loot that he stole at the Bellagio Casino in the early 90’s and has eluded authorities ever since. Then there was Jose Vigoa, a Cuban immigrant said to be the brain behind a robbery at the MGM Grand in 1998, a botched robbery at the Desert Inn in 1999, and a robbery at none other than – the Bellagio Casino in the late 1990’s. Vigoa’s tale did not end as well as Brennan, as Casino security cameras were able to get high definition shots of Vigoa in his meager disguise of a baseball cap and sunglasses. Vigoa was later apprehended for the Bellagio stint. Now, the Bellagio turned victim once again for the second heist of the week in Vegas. This time, an ‘Evel Knieval’ daredevil riding a black motorcycle, garbed in a jumpsuit, wearing a full helmet and wielding a gun stormed into the prestigious Bellagio Casino to try his luck at the .
The episode itself took all of three minutes, according to a police spokesperson and is the second heist in Vegas in a week, and the tenth for the year. This masked man, identity still unknown, ran in, waved his gun and ran out to his awaiting chariot – a black sport model motorcycle parked strategically for a quick getaway. He got away with $1.5 million in chips that at some point will have to be exchanged for cash at the Bellagio. This suspect is believed to be linked to a prior robbery earlier in the week at the Las Vegas Sun Coast Casino. The mad dash at the Sun Coast Casino netted the perpetrator almost $20,000 in chips that have no cash value until exchanged at Sun Coast. In the end, the fearless ‘somebody’ on a black sport motorcycle struck it big with his pile of chips, or not?