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Gaming Guru

Mike Blasky
 

Details emerge about Vegas casino robbery blunder

28 February 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Even Hollywood wouldn't be dumb enough to pair "Ocean's Eleven" with The Three Stooges.

But from the bumbling gaffes displayed in Thursday's robbery of the Rio, it's clear: Anything is possible when there's money involved.

The poorly thought-out plot was detailed in an arrest report for Hiroyuki Yamaguchi, 61, and Edward Land, 41, accused of being accomplices to the crime.

The man alleged to be the ringleader, Steven Gao, was the man police say entered the Rio at 4:30 a.m. Thursday in a disguise that included a wig, fedora and fake mustache, and stole $33,200 in gaming chips from a pai gow table.

Gao was still at large as of Friday night.

HOW THEY WERE CAUGHT

• Yamaguchi, a taxi driver, used his own cab as the getaway car. Police were able to track the car and quickly linked Yamaguchi to the scene.

• Gao and Yamaguchi covered the cab's interior camera to hide their faces, but they didn't realize the audio was still recording, which captured their incriminating conversations about the robbery.

• Gao used a casino pay phone to call Land after the incident. Police viewed Gao on the casino surveillance tape and tracked the call to Land's cell phone.

• They left evidence everywhere -- in the getaway car, in the casinos, in a backyard and even their own pockets.

Decision to use cab aided police

This plot had many, many holes, but the one that effectively sunk the ship was the decision to use Yamaguchi's cab as the escape pod.

According to the report, Yamaguchi, a 10-year veteran cabby in Las Vegas who drives for the Lucky Cab Co., took Gao from the Rio to Terrible's hotel-casino immediately after the stickup, knowing Gao had just committed a robbery.

Video evidence from the cab later recovered by police shows Yamaguchi taping over the car's interior camera, trying to conceal his fare's face.

But although the camera had been blinded, the audio was still recording.

"While driving, the suspect (Gao) is heard saying he was upset that he dropped the $10,000 chip," the arrest report states, referring to a chip he dropped inside the casino. "The suspect then asks Yamaguchi to hide the gun and that there are no bullets in the gun."

Police later discovered the firearm hidden under the driver's seat of Yamaguchi's cab. He also had electrical tape in his pocket and $1,000 in Rio chips in his bag, the report states.

Yamaguchi initially lied about his involvement to police and said Gao was a random fare he had met only once before, the report states.

But unfortunately for him, police didn't buy his story:

"It is the opinion that the average person would know that placing tape over a surveillance camera would only be done to hide fruits of a crime," the detective wrote in the report.

The two met inside Terrible's, where Gao gave Land a black shoulder bag and said he "got some chips" and he "won."

Gao told Land he could now pay back the $15,000 he owed him.

Their next rendezvous was at Land's home at 8111 Retriever Ave., near Spring Mountain Road and Durango Drive.

Land told police he took a shower while Gao buried the money in the backyard. Land denied ever looking inside the bag, but said he asked Gao, "Did you rob a casino?"

Gao told him, "You don't wanna know. It's fine, and you will get your money," Land told police.

Land later dropped Gao off at Harrah's, he said, so Gao could "catch a bus" to California. He would return in several days to pay Land his money "with interest," the report said.

Dealer saw suspect with gun

Land told police he was more interested in getting paid by Gao than staying out of the cover-up. Police served a search warrant at Land's home and recovered the wig, the shoulder bag and $17,000 in Rio chips.

None of the three suspects has a criminal record, according to police.

During the early morning robbery, dealer K.C. Patrick saw a man in a disguise and brandishing a gun walk up to the dealer's table next to her and start snatching chips off the table.

Patrick called out for security, and a supervisor saw the dealer trying to prevent the suspect from taking the chips. The supervisor, noticing the gun, told the dealer to let the suspect have his way, and the man quickly snatched the chips and left.

Patrick said she wasn't surprised that the suspects were identified.

"I said at the beginning, he's not going to spend a dollar. He's going to get caught," she said.

The heist came just months after a December robbery at the Bellagio, an incident that also was not carried out by a criminal mastermind.

Anthony Carleo, the son of Municipal Court Judge George Assad, made off with $1.5 million in chips but was done in by his own braggadocio, according to police.

After arriving in a motorcycle, he ran through the casino wearing a motorcycle helmet and held up a craps dealer, police said.

But he told so many people about his exploits that police were able to track him down and arrest him.