The LA Times reported today on an ongoing police hunt for a Palmdale man who allegedly stole $1.6 million in casino chips from the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.
An unarmed man believed to be Akingide Cole walked into to an off-limits area and took a number of high denomination chips, all according to security footage at the hotel. Police are looking for him, but the Nevada Gaming Commission's Jerry Markling told the LA Times that he hardly has a chance to cash in on his riches anyways.
The chances of the suspect cashing in on the theft are slim, said Jerry Markling, chief of the Nevada Gaming Commission's enforcement division. High-value chips are typically circulated among a small group of top players known by casinos.
"It'd be fairly difficult to cash in high-denomination chips simply because most of the licensees know who their players are who receive those types of chips," he said. "Anybody just can't walk up to a cage window and cash in a $1,000 or $5,000 chip."
Casinos also have more than one set of chips that can be used after a theft, Markling said. If someone tried to play with a different-styled chip, he would stand out, making it "that much more difficult" for thieves.
Markling's comments might have you believe that no one would think about robbing a casino these days, but that's far from the truth. People are trying to rob casinos all over the country by the scores - in cities like Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Billings, Montana. But most of these are assaults with weapons - crude hold-ups like the ones you see at liquor stores or banks.
Akingide Cole, meanwhile, went into the Venetian not with a weapon but with a plan for how and when to seize a number of high-stakes chips. He went in and out of a restricted area smoothly, without running into anyone, and now he's still on the lamb. Whether the police or the Venetian's resident Nicky Santoro-like fixer end up finding Cole remains to be seen, but so far it's hard not to root for him.
In the meantime, let's hum "A Little Less Conversation" and cue Elliott Gould in his underwear and talk about the best casino heists of all time.
First, there were the shoe robbers in the 1970's. Two physics students from the UC Santa Cruz created a small device that they put in their shoes to cheat at the roulette table. Each would wear the device, with one using his device to interfere with the roulette wheel, and the other received a signal in his device telling him how to bet. Apparently these devices literally shocked their socks off, too. They pulled this rouse off for a few months before being caught.
In October 1993, Heather Tallchief and Roberto Solis stole an armored truck carrying $2.5 million outside of the Circus Circus casino. Tallchief was driving the armored car for a company she'd only begun working for two months prior to the heist. During a routine cash drop-off at Circus Circus, she disappeared with the truck. Allegedly she and her accomplice/lover Solis disguised themselves and got on a plane bound for Denver, and then hints of their whereabouts led investigators in many directions, to no avail. At some point Solice abandoned Tallchief and their child, and Tallchief turned herself in to the police in 2005. She served 63 months in prison, while Solis continues to remain at large.
One year earlier, Bill Brennan did something unthinkable. He was a cashier working at the Stardust Casino in Las Vegas. During his lunch break one day in September 1992, he walked past security guards and never came back. Authorities later discovered he'd walked out with more than $500,000 in cash and chips in his backpack. He was never to be seen or heard from again.
Did Akingide Cole just stage the next great caper? With $1.6 million worth of chips in his pocket, he's surely making a case.
(Photo Credits: deliciousmelissa/flickr; MoneyBlogNewz/flickr; C Jill Reed/flickr)