September 19, 2012 - 8:32 pm
“Ocean’s Eleven” popularized the idea that it’s almost impossible to steal big money from a casino.
Recent heists show it’s not only possible, it’s becoming almost commonplace.
But those who attempt usually are arrested.
In the latest grab-and-run job, authorities accuse William Ferguson, 57, and an unknown accomplice of ripping off 14 Las Vegas casinos for nearly $180,000 in chips.
Ferguson has been indicted in four of the capers. He faces four counts of burglary and three counts of grand larceny in the theft of $29,000 in chips from the MGM Grand, the Rio, Treasure Island and the LVH.
Authorities also suspect Ferguson stole $150,000 in chips from 10 other casinos, including $95,000 from the Bellagio.
During a hearing Wednesday, prosecutor Noreen DeMonte said Ferguson has been stealing large amounts of gambling chips from roulette tables.
Ferguson worked with an accomplice, and while one distracted the dealer, the other would grab chips and run, she said.
Authorities have recovered $80,000 of the stolen $178,900 in chips, DeMonte said.
Court records show Ferguson has a lengthy criminal history of burglary and larceny dating to the 1990s.
Ferguson was arrested Aug. 19, four days after he walked out of court as he was set to stand trial in a separate larceny case. While waiting to stand trial, Ferguson learned he could face new charges in the string of casino heists. So he left.
Ferguson has remained in the Clark County Detention Center ever since.
On Wednesday, District Judge Linda Bell set bail for Ferguson at $500,000 in the casino heist case and ordered that if he can post bail, he must show where the money came from.
Ferguson’s trial in the other larceny case was continued until March. He is set to be arraigned in District Court on the four heists on Sept. 24 before Judge Carolyn Ellsworth.
The case is just the latest brazen casino heist in Las Vegas.
In May, Michael Belton was one of three men who tried to rob the Bellagio of high-value gaming chips. But the attempt was foiled by quick-thinking casino employees.
Belton pleaded guilty to robbery and conspiracy and is set to be sentenced later this month. Two other suspects are still at large.
In December 2010, Anthony Carleo walked into the Bellagio wearing a motorcycle helmet and carrying a handgun and made off with $1.5 million in chips.
Carleo, nicknamed “Bellagio Bandit,” escaped but was caught two months later after trying to sell at a cut rate 14 $25,000 chips to an undercover Las Vegas police officer. Carleo was sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence after pleading guilty.
Two men, Edward Land and Hiroyuki Yamaguchi, are set to stand trial in March in connection with the February 2011 armed robbery of $33,200 in gaming chips from the Rio.
In that case, the two men are accused of helping an at-large accomplice who robbed at gunpoint a pai gow table at the Rio.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at
email@example.com or 702-380-1039.