Updated July 6, 2023 - 8:01 pm
A 23-year-old Las Vegas man accused in a so-called imposter scam that swindled Circa out of over $1 million is also accused of being involved in similar con jobs targeting casinos in Mesquite and Laughlin.
Erik Gutierrez Martinez is charged with theft of over $100,000 in connection with an attempt to bilk the Eureka Casino Resort in Mesquite out of $250,000, according to court documents.
A similar fraud also played out at the Golden Nugget in Laughlin, according to a Nevada Gaming Control Board arrest report. Both scams involved people using the same names, and both involved calls originating from Mexican phone numbers, the report said.
It wasn’t clear if anybody had been charged in the Laughlin case, however. It also wasn’t clear if anybody else has been arrested in the three scams.
Michael Lawton, a spokesperson for the Nevada Gaming Control Board, said in an email that the board had no comment on the incidents.
On June 17, Circa was bilked out of more than $1 million after a so-called imposter scam tricked a casino worker into believing she was delivering bags of cash to two men at four different locations on behalf of one of the hotel’s owners, police said.
According to documents, a casino cage supervisor at the Eureka got a call at about 1:30 p.m. on March 2 from somebody who said that his name was Michael Gunther, that he was a representative from the company that supplies hand sanitizer to the casino — and that a payment of $250,000 needed to be made immediately.
Gunther told the cage supervisor that the money needed to be delivered to an address in the 3400 block of North Rancho Drive.
The supervisor would later tell a Nevada Gaming Control Board agent that she “thought the situation was weird, but was not concerned enough to stop.”
When the supervisor got to the Vegas address, she was surprised to see it was a Circle K, according to the arrest report. Gunther then instructed her to deposit $15,000 in cash into a Bitcoin Depot kiosk.
She was then told to go to a 7-Eleven on North Nellis Boulevard to meet somebody named Anthony, where she would give him the remaining $235,000.
The supervisor gave Anthony a box that contained the remaining cash. She then got a call from somebody, presumably a superior at the Eureka, telling her to bring the money back to the casino. Some names in the arrest report were blacked out, so it was difficult to know who had called the supervisor.
The woman drove back over to Anthony and found him standing in front of the store. She grabbed the money box from him and drove back to the Eureka.
The woman was detained when she got back to the Eureka, but she was released when it became clear she had been tricked into handing over the money, the report said.
In an effort to trace the money that was deposited into the bitcoin kiosk, board investigators got help from the United States Secret Service, which determined that the money had ended up in a bitcoin exchange incorporated in Gibraltar and was no longer traceable. The $15,000 was gone.
On June 21, when Metropolitan Police Department officers were executing a search warrant at Gutierrez Martinez’s home after the scam at Circa, they found a grey hoodie that the suspect had been wearing on March 2 at the 7-Eleven, investigators said.
But board investigators said that, along with the combination of all the evidence, pointed to Gutierrez Martinez as having been involved in the Eureka theft as well.
It wasn’t clear if anybody else had been arrested in the Circa, Eureka or the Laughlin heists.
When Gutierrez Martinez was booked into the Clark County Detention Center on June 21 on suspicion of being involved in the Circa scam, he was also arrested in connection with the Mesquite scam, records showed. Jail records show that he remains in custody in connection with both cases.
An arraignment hearing for Gutierrez Martinez was held in the Clark County Justice Court in Mesquite on Wednesday, records showed. A preliminary hearing has been set for Aug. 16.
In the Circa case, a preliminary hearing has been set for Aug. 24, Las Vegas Justice Court court records show.
Contact Brett Clarkson at email@example.com.