Updated November 28, 2023 - 12:40 pm
A California woman was arrested during the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix for allegedly holding fraudulent credentials to the exclusive paddock area while police investigated organized theft rings during the mid-November event.
Michal Erel, identified by police as a resident of Beverly Hills with an Israeli passport showing she was born in 1980, was arrested at 9 p.m. Nov. 18 during the final race of the three-day event, according to a report by the Metropolitan Police Department.
She was found carrying two allegedly fraudulent VIP passes, one to the luxury Paddock Club worth $15,000 and another, granting unlimited access to the paddock itself reserved mostly for members of race car teams, worth $35,000, police said in the report.
Detectives of the multiagency Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center were assigned to the race after being briefed about organized crime groups that worked together to steal high-end property at other Formula One races in Miami and Austin, Texas, the report stated.
At the events in Miami and Austin “organized groups of anywhere from 8 to 30 subjects worked in conjunction with each other to distract, divert, steal and rob attendees,” detectives stated.
“These groups are well organized, work extremely well together and have been very successful at stealing large value items,” according to the report. “At the Miami event, the organized group stole more (than) 1 million dollars’ worth of items.”
On the evening of Nov. 18, Formula One security told detectives about a woman, whose identity initially could not be confirmed, possessing the two fake passes, including the one allowing entry to secure areas used for race car teams that could create security risks, police reported.
There was no indication in the report whether Erel had been tied to an organized crime group.
Erel was arrested on suspicion of theft of $25,000 but less than $100,000 in the area of East Harmon Avenue and Kischner Drive off the Formula One track that stretched east to part of the Strip.
But after her arrest, prosecutors dropped the theft charge and replaced it with “making, uttering or possessing with intent to utter fictitious bill, note or check,” which is equivalent to forgery, according to court records.
Erel, represented by Las Vegas lawyer Steven Karen, was released from custody on Nov. 22 and her preliminary hearing in Justice Court was set by Justice of the Peace Melissa Saragosa for May 8, court records show.
Karen could not be reached for comment.
The police report listed Erel’s residence on Benedict Canyon Drive in Beverly Hills. The home has six bedrooms and is worth $8.8 million, according to the real estate website Redfin.com.
Contact Jeff Burbank at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0382. Follow him @JeffBurbank2 on X.