Florida Casino Scammers Who Stole $5.3 Million Indicted

A tribal casino in Florida was subject to a scam which was utilized by former employees of the facility. They found a way to tamper with video slots to generate credit vouchers. That way, they were able to steal more than $5.3 million from the casino.

The group of ex-casino staffers was indicted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida with computer fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, and making false statements to law enforcement.

According to the feds, the entire operation started back in 2011 and ended four years later, in 2015. It involved four people, all of whom were then employed by the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming facility, which is located in the western part of Miami. The four employees partnered up with four other people who were not employed by the casino and together made a scheme that involved tampering with electronic gaming machines and stealing money.

The way they rigged the machines involved connecting a sort of a wire which was located inside EGMs and was responsible for recognizing all sorts of coins that were inserted by the players. The other end of the wire was connected to another EGM part, which made the machine record a greater number of coins inserted.

Once the scammer “loaded” the machines with coins, the four of them who were posing as gamblers gave orders to the machine to issue credit vouchers for the amount of money they “deposited.” EGMs allow this type of service and players can redeem these vouchers at one of the ATMs that are located in the casino or via the casino cashier.

As soon as the machine issued the voucher, one of the casino staffers, whose names are Michel Aleu, Lester Lavin, Yohander Jorrin Melhen, and Leonardo Betancourt, would make the “hard reset” of an EGM, meaning that all signs of big deposits would be erased.

According to the feds, who were assisted by the FBI and the local police, the scammers had used their gains to buy real estate, invest in properties, buy vehicles, and fund college education for their children. The feds want them to forfeit all the assets and transfer the children to the University of Phoenix.

Other Similar Scams?

The scam that took place at the Miccosukee facility was really detailed and planned well, but the scammers eventually fell victims to the law. One of the similar scams, although far smaller in scale, also took place at the Mohegan Sun Pocono.

The casino in Pennsylvania was scammed for $419,000 by the VP of player development. He was charged with not only theft but also identity theft, fraud, conspiracy, computer trespassing, and more. Apart from the VP, Robert Joseph Pellegrini, the other two people who were arrested were employee Rochelle Poszeluznyj and a regular customer of the casino, Mark Joseph Heltzel.

According to the police, Poszeluznyj would collect all player reward IDs and PINs from customers upon taking drink orders. She would pass these numbers further to Pellegrini, who would use them to create bogus reward cards loaded with free credits to play slots. Pellegrini would then give those to Heltzel, who would play free slots as long as there was free credit and the three would split all the winnings.

According to the police Bureau of Gaming, the scammers won a total of $478,100 by playing unauthorized free slots. All of that started in May 2014 and ended in April 2015. The three participants were caught and sentenced.


A sports enthusiast, Ryan helps cover sports betting news from around the country, highlighting some of the more interesting events going on in the USA.