US Land-Based Casino Syndicate Exposed

Normally online casinos are the culprits when it comes to allegations of fraud and scams. The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) just released the details of a scandal that has been going on at numerous land-based casinos across the US and Canada. The swindling resulted in the accretion of unlawful wealth totalling $7 million.  Agent Peter Casey of the FBI handled the investigation explained how the scam worked.

It makes for a perfect Hollywood movie script the recent land-based casino scam. The brainchild of this scam was Van Thu Tran and her husband as far back as 2002; this “Bonnie and Clyde” couple were dealers at an Indian tribal casino in San Diego. Their fraudulent operation was simple. It entailed a bogus shuffle that created a “slug”; in a group of cards whose order does not change when the remaining cards are shuffled. As soon as the slug comes into play, those in the know can predict the ensuing cards and therefore can wager accordingly. It first started with the Asian card game Pai Gow poker at the San Diego casino, as the crooks grew in confidence they soon moved on to other casino games and eventually to other casinos. By 2007, 47 members of Tran’s extended family and friends were known to be carrying out this illicit operation at 29 casinos.

A dealer would make a false shuffle at a table in such a manner it is undetected by casino security officials and cameras. In effect this created a slug. The moment the slug comes into play signals were given to members of the syndicate to come and wager at the table. Once at the table, accomplices were given simple signals such as when to place their bets and when to stand by a person who knew the sequence of the cards in the slug. Casey explained a finger on a cigarette means bet, two fingers might mean stand pat. He said, “Basically it’s the same as a catcher giving signals to a pitcher in in a baseball game.” As time progressed so did the complexity of the operation. The slug pattern was given to someone who entered it into a computer and in turn signals were given from a safe distance as to avoid detection.

By 2004 casino operators sensed something was not kosher, but were still unable to expose the workings of the operation. As a result they contacted the authorities. The investigation included surveillance, wiretaps and operators going undercover as a dishonest dealers. It was a joint effort between the Internal Revenue Service investigators, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, the California Department of Justice as well as the Ontario Provincial Police. When the gang was apprehended in 2007,  Tran and her family had already spent the cash stolen from casinos by buying  properties in the US and Vietnam, luxury cars and jewellery.



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