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Sports bettor ‘Vegas Dave’ arraigned, arrested

Updated April 19, 2017 - 8:08 pm

Legal troubles are mounting for prominent sports bettor David Oancea, who is better known in gaming circles as Vegas Dave.

The professional gambler, who won fame and fortune by promoting his ability to win big on long-shot bets, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that he used other people’s Social Security numbers to open player accounts at area casinos.

Minutes after he was arraigned in federal court in Las Vegas, Oancea was taken into custody by Metropolitan Police Department officers, who arrested him on a warrant in a domestic battery case from July.

The high-powered defense team Oancea assembled for himself blasted authorities for taking him into custody on the misdemeanor charge.

“Apparently one of the IRS agents decided that they would call Metro to have him taken on the misdemeanor, even though the federal judge said we had 30 days to clear it up,” defense attorney Tom Pitaro said. The attorney said Oancea did not know the warrant had been issued.

At the afternoon arraignment, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Koppe said she would give Oancea 30 days to sort out the outstanding charge.

“I’ve been doing this 40 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such pettiness as this sort of move,” Pitaro said.

Koppe set a trial date of June 20 in the federal case. Oancea will be allowed to continue his gambling business and to travel outside the country, as long as he gives the government advance notice of his plans.

He has an upcoming trip scheduled to Mexico, where his lawyers said he travels frequently for business purposes.

Koppe rejected a request from Assistant U.S. Attorney Kilby Macfadden to prohibit Oancea from international travel.

“His social media is depicting something very different than him working hard in Mexico and attending to rental properties,” Macfadden said.

She was referring to Oancea’s frequently updated social media accounts, where he recently has posted pictures of himself enjoying nightlife.

Oancea has garnered hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. In a recent post to his Twitter account, he wrote: “When you are at the top of your industry 90 percent of the people want to bring you down. Some call them haters I call them fans.”

Defense attorneys echoed that sentiment outside court Wednesday.

“The government is being very vindictive here,” defense attorney Paul Padda said. “David is a high-profile person, and he posts his winnings online … Sometimes people in the government think, ‘This is going to be good for my career if I can bring a case against a high-profile person.’”

Pitaro stressed that none of the government’s allegations suggest Oancea’s winnings were anything but legitimate.

“Dave is a very, very successful gambler,” he said. “The bets were legitimate. What happened is he beat the casinos.”

Federal prosecutors, in bringing charges against Oancea, also sought a court order to force him to forfeit roughly $500,000 of his winnings.

The 40-year-old sports handicapper dressed sharply for his first federal court appearance in a purple button down shirt, black suit and shiny black loafers. He spoke little, other than to enter his not guilty plea and to say, “Yes, your honor,” over and over again in response to the judge’s questions.

Oancea also is represented by defense lawyer David Chesnoff, who left court immediately upon learning of the misdemeanor arrest. Oancea was booked into the Clark County Detention Center around 3 p.m., records showed, but was released within hours.

The 19-count federal indictment accuses him of using other people’s Social Security numbers to make nine transactions, totaling roughly $3.5 million, at Wynn Las Vegas and Westgate casinos. As a result, the indictment states, he caused the two casinos to file false currency transaction reports.

Contact Jenny Wilson at jenwilson@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Follow @jennydwilson on Twitter.

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