As an analyst for the state's largest casino company, Tony Ahn was a trusted employee who had access to valuable players club information.
But federal court documents show that Ahn, 27, betrayed that trust in 2009, hatching an elaborate slot machine scheme from within the company, then known as MGM Mirage, to unlawfully win $863,895 .
Ahn used his company position to identify regular customers with unused free play points, transferred the points to counterfeit players club cards and recruited people to gamble with the cards at the company's casinos along the Strip, the court documents allege.
MGM Mirage and law enforcement authorities eventually got wise to the scheme, even tracking the group's interactions on Facebook.
This week, Ahn, who lost his job amid the cheating scandal, pleaded guilty in federal court to spearheading the conspiracy.
Free play points earned by thousands of MGM Mirage club members, many of whom lived outside Nevada, were stolen between July 2009 and July 2010, the court documents allege.
The company under its new name, MGM Resorts International, owns 16 casinos in Nevada, including 10 on the Strip.
Three other indicted members of Ahn's ring, Joseph Ramirez, David Evans and David Pecor, have pleaded guilty and are waiting to be sentenced. Ahn's brother, Danny, is to be charged and enter a guilty plea next week.
Ahn pleaded guilty on Monday before U.S. District Judge James Mahan to three charges: trafficking in, production and use of counterfeit access devices; fraudulent transactions with access devices; and conspiracy to commit access device fraud.
Ahn, who is free on his own recognizance, declined comment after entering his plea. He faces an Aug. 6 sentencing.
According to his agreement with prosecutors, Ahn admitted stealing customer data from MGM Mirage in the summer of 2009. That data included the free play points, with personal identification numbers and card numbers needed to access the points.
Alan Feldman, senior vice president of public affairs for MGM Resorts International, said the company's internal Fraud Control Group uncovered the scheme and reported it to Nevada gaming regulators and the FBI.
"They were monitoring his activities for several months in conjunction with law enforcement," he said. "They pieced this case together very carefully."
Feldman said information was obtained during the investigation by "keeping very close watch" over the social media posts of the group members.
"As people were being questioned, they claimed no knowledge of one another, yet their posts showed otherwise," Feldman said.
Ahn had recruited Ramirez and Evans to the scheme, giving them counterfeit players club cards encoded with the stolen customer data and instructing them to pose as slot machine customers, Ahn's plea agreement states.
Later, Ahn provided Ramirez and Evans with a computer, card encoder and blank players club cards and taught them how to encode the stolen customer data onto the cards.
Pecor and Danny Ahn also were brought into the scheme, court documents allege. Pecor was given counterfeit players club cards to use, and Ahn became a middleman for his brother, providing Ramirez and Evans with stolen customer data while collecting the brothers' share of the slot machine winnings.
In March 2010, state authorities arrested one of the unindicted members of the group for playing with counterfeit players club cards, the documents say.
Shortly after the arrest, Ahn and the group took measures to cover their tracks.
Ramirez and Evans buried the computer, card encoder, a flash drive and blank players club cards in the desert, according to the court documents.
But months after the February 2011 indictment of Ahn and his co-defendants, FBI agents, with help from Ramirez and Evans, dug up the items and impounded them as evidence, sources said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Chu said in court that the defendants have agreed to pay back the $863,895 stolen from the casinos in the scam.
They also have agreed to forfeit more than $30,000 in cash seized by FBI agents, with a pickup, a motorcycle, several weapons, a laptop computer and several cellphones.
Contact Jeff German at email@example.com or 702-380-8135.