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Woman arrested in $1M theft from Las Vegas poker pro Esfandiari

Updated August 28, 2020 - 8:36 pm

An Arizona woman was arrested on suspicion of stealing approximately $1 million in cash, gambling chips and jewelry from an international poker champion and his father, then using the cash and chips to gamble in high-stakes poker games.

Svitlana Silva, 46, was booked Sunday at the Clark County Detention Center on charges of residential burglary and possession of stolen property valued at $100,000 or more.

A Las Vegas police arrest report for Silva states that poker champion Antonio Esfandiari and his father, Bejan, called police July 14 to report that they had returned to their condominium at Panorama Towers, 4575 Dean Martin Road, and discovered a huge cache of valuables missing from their safe.

The missing valuables included $150,000 in cash, $300,000 to $500,000 in poker chips, a platinum diamond bracelet valued at $350,000, a Hublot Aerofusion watch worth $35,000, a Cartier watch worth $6,000, a Gucci silver watch worth $2,000, a Patek Philippe watch valued at $7,000 and a gold suitcase.

Antonio Esfandiari has been a fixture on the poker scene for nearly 20 years. He has more than $27 million in career tournament earnings, according to the Hendon Mob Poker Database.

He has earned three World Series of Poker bracelets, including a victory in the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop in 2012 for $18,346,673, according to the WSOP website.

The pair told police that one person who had access to the residence was Silva.

“Silva lived with Bejan off and on for several months,” the report states. “She had been left alone in the condo on several occasions.”

Similar pass codes

Bejan said Silva had regularly used his iPhone and iPad, which had pass codes that were similar to the key code on his bedroom door and safe.

“Those codes are like the phone and iPad, just different variations of the last few digits but the same numbers,” a detective wrote in the report.

Police interviewed Silva, who was described as cooperative. She confirmed the living arrangement but said she had moved out in March. She returned the father’s key to him, saying she still occasionally comes to Las Vegas to stay with the father on brief visits.

On Saturday, Antonio Esfandiari called police and informed them he had heard secondhand that Silva recently showed up at a private poker tournament in Las Vegas. The host kept a list of the amount each poker player used to buy in to the tournament.

“Silva started with $5,000 and signed the paper,” the report states. “Silva lost and pulled out an additional $20,000 to play another round. She continues playing two more times, playing with the amounts of $30,000 each and loses. Every time she signed documenting the amount she buys in with.”

Police said that after losing, Silva was out of cash, so she was driven to a Las Vegas apartment, where she retrieved a hand-held safe. She then returned to the poker game and “pulled out $100,000 in Aria (resort) chips,” police said.

“Silva plays and loses, and pulled out an additional $200,000 in Bellagio chips,” the report states.

Silva then won and asked to be cashed out.

Before Silva cashed out and left, another player cashed out and was paid with a combination of cash and the chips Silva had brought to the game. Silva later texted the player and asked if she could buy back her Aria gambling chips.

Silva then texted the man, saying: “Hey forgot to tell you my chips has special mark on computer so if its stolen they can’t cash out,” the report states. “She goes (on) to say this person will have a problem cashing out.”

Police said Silva was identified as a suspect in theft because she had access to the residence where the goods were stolen and showed up at a poker game “with the same $ amount in poker chips from the 2 casinos” that belonged to the victims.

Silva was tracked to a parking garage at Aria and arrested.

“Silva had in her possession that was found during a search incident to arrest, $25k pink Bellagio chips and several red $25k Aria chips in her purse along with large amounts of cash,” police said.

Changed her story

Silva was read her Miranda rights. She told police she had an additional $25,000 in poker chips from the Bellagio and Aria in her car.

Silva then changed her story about the episode, saying that before the theft from the condo “she walked in on a random guy in their condo” and saw “the same guy going down the elevator” with the victims’ property “but did not want to mention that” to police, the report states.

Silva’s ex-husband told police that she had told him she took about $200,000 of “her” cash and chips from the victims’ safe. A Bellagio gaming manager also told police that around Aug. 11, Silva was at the property and began playing poker with “big amounts of cash.”

Silva has bailed out of jail. A criminal complaint has not been filed in the case. The case is scheduled for October in Las Vegas Justice Court.

Antonio Esfandiari could not be reached for comment Friday morning. An email inquiry sent to the World Series of Poker seeking comment was pending.

Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Jim Barnes contributed to this story.

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