Las Vegas Casino Scammed for $1.1M by Man Posing as Owner

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A man is accused of impersonating the owner of Circa Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas in order to steal more than $1.1 million from the establishment, according new documents obtained this week by KLAS-TV Las Vegas.

The individual, identified as Erik Gutierrez, 23, convinced an employee to hand over the money under the guise of purchasing fire safety equipment. Gutierrez has since been arrested and charged with theft exceeding $100,000.

Not Good PR

The alleged events took place on June 17 when Gutierrez called the casino’s cashier’s cage, posing as the owner of the Circa.

Helped by name-checking the Las Vegas Fire Department and city safety protocols, he convinced the cage supervisor to make an immediate payment of $320,000 for fire safety equipment.

The supervisor, believing the caller to be the hotel’s owner, complied with the request. Over time, the supervisor made several payments to off-site locations, totaling $1.17 million.

“Although I love a good PR story, this isn’t one of them,” Circa CEO Derek Stevens told media outlets.

“Circa Resort & Casino is cooperating with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in this investigation. We greatly appreciate their efforts to date and cannot comment further due to an ongoing investigation.”

Investigation and Arrest

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) launched an investigation into the case, tracing a vehicle used in the scam to Gutierrez’s aunt. Gutierrez was arrested at a gym on June 18.

The police managed to recover approximately $850,000 of the stolen money. But $314,000 remains missing.

During a raid of Gutierrez’s home address, police also found a “large bag of U.S. currency bundled together with the name Circa written on the bundle.”

Gutierrez’s bail was set at $25,000, and he was ordered to stay away from Circa and the Fremont Street Experience if he posts bond. He also faces a similar charge in Mesquite, Nevada, with bail set at $20,000. Police have not revealed any details on those other charges.

Industry on Alert

The incident will rank as one of the biggest casino thefts in US history. It has left casino security experts astounded and concerned.

Casino-security expert Willy Allison, one of the hosts for the annual World Game Protection Conference, sent out warnings to U.S. casino-surveillance directors, informing them of the potential for similar scams.

“An employee in the cage can walk out with $300,000, meet a guy she doesn’t know, and give him the cash?” Allison said.

“As an ex-surveillance guy who lives and breathes internal controls and procedures, I say there are a lot of gaps to fill in. From the outside, you say, ‘How can that happen?'”

The LVMPD has issued a memo to casinos warning of scams that could affect their cashier operations.

The memo noted that such scams have been occurring for the past five months across the US, with a recent uptick in incidents.

One such incident happened at The Monarch Resort and Spa in Black Hawk, Colorado, in March earlier this year.

In that case, more than $500,000 in cash went missing after a casino employee was convinced to hand it over to someone claiming to be a casino director.

“You would have thought that after what happened in Colorado, every casino would be going to the cage and running an awareness program about this scam,” Allison said.

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