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Punishment delayed, again, for alleged Las Vegas casino con man

Updated April 17, 2019 - 5:03 pm

It’s been a year and a half since Mark Georgantas cut a deal with prosecutors on what would be his 21st felony conviction, and he’s sidestepped sentencing ever since, just as he did Wednesday.

He hired a new lawyer, he said, forcing Senior Judge James Bixler to postpone the case for the 12th time since Georgantas entered the guilty plea to one count of theft in October 2017.

And earlier this month, with the possibility of decades behind bars ahead of him, he filed a handwritten appeal with the Nevada Supreme Court, asking for his case to be thrown out.

“I don’t know how you got such a good deal to begin with,” Bixler said Wednesday.

Joseph Gersten, the attorney who appeared on Georgantas’ behalf, responded, “good lawyering, your honor, good lawyering,” while standing next to Caesar Almase, the attorney who helped broker the deal.

Deputy Attorney General Michael Viets opposed the delay. He wrote in court papers that Georgantas deserved upward of 30 years in prison.

The 56-year-old has a documented history of trying to evade punishment and people who lend him cash. The self-described “creative gaming enthusiast,” who prosecutors call a “career confidence man,” had agreed to pay back nearly a half-million dollars in connection with a “pure cash” promise of beating Las Vegas casino pit games.

But first, he said, he needed hip surgery. Instead of having taxpayers foot the bill while Georgantas was in prison, a judge delayed his sentence so he could go under the knife.

He returned to court on crutches in May with a doctor’s note for a post-operation follow-up.

But after a judge set a firm date for an August sentencing, Georgantas didn’t show up to court. He was later nabbed in rural Utah, where he had been hiding out with an unsuspecting family, who said he mostly played online poker and slept in a camper.

Viets wrote in a sentencing memo that Georgantas had canceled the hip surgery before he once again went on the lam and assumed the identity Todd Wolf.

Georgantas’ criminal record stretches to California, where he has been convicted of conspiracy and grand theft, once escaped jail through a storm drain and walked away from a trial on credit card fraud charges. His convictions date to 2001, including white-collar financial frauds amounting to more than $1 million, carrying a firearm as a felon and battery of a peace officer.

Georgantas was “a career fraudster whose repeated victimization of others over the past twenty years warrants sentencing him as a habitual criminal,” Viets wrote. “Sentencing the defendant as a habitual criminal is not only in the interest of justice, it would also protect the public from an individual who has a substantial record of defrauding victims, evading the law and avoiding punishment for his crimes.”

Even while awaiting sentencing in the Las Vegas theft case, Georgantas entered a no contest plea to a pair of 2015 misdemeanors: reckless driving and duty to stop at the scene of a crash.

The prosecutor said it took roughly three years to resolve that case in a lower court because Georgantas needed “time to resolve who would be representing him.”

In court on Wednesday morning, Georgantas sat mostly quiet in a wheelchair, wearing a blue jail jumpsuit with a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his left breast pocket.

Bixler ruled that it would be erroneous to sentence Georgantas on the day another lawyer took over his case and ordered him back to court in a month.

Then the judge turned to the prosecutor and said: “I feel your frustration … This thing’s got to get kicked along. This thing’s been dragging and dragging and dragging.”

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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