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Frances McCabe

Bellagio bandit gets 6-16 years for separate robbery

26 August 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The Bellagio Bandit might only have to do three years in prison for his audacious heist at the Strip casino, but a different judge Thursday slapped Anthony Carleo with a six- to 16-year sentence for sticking up the Suncoast Hotel and Casino.

District Judge Michael Villani ordered Carleo's prison term in the Suncoast case to run consecutively to his sentence in the Bellagio case, which means the 30-year-old faces a total of nine to 27 years in the Nevada Department of Corrections for the two December capers.

Before being sentenced, Carleo again apologized for the robberies and to his family, including his parents who attended the hearing. He said he was ashamed of himself, but "I am not a lost cause. I can turn my life around."

Defense attorney Bill Terry then asked the judge to run the Suncoast sentence concurrently with the Bellagio sentence, arguing that Carleo was a good kid before drug and gambling addictions sent his life out of control.

Villani said that judging by the letters of support from Carleo's parents, politicians and even a Colorado sheriff, the defendant, a couple of years ago, might have been on track to success while being "the pride of his parents."

But Villani said there was planning and sophistication to the Suncoast robbery that occurred about a week before the Bellagio robbery. In both cases Carleo robbed the casinos while armed and disguised in motorcycle gear before making a quick getaway on a bike.

"It wasn't an impulse crime," the judge said.

Villani said he was "dumbfounded" by the light sentence the Department of Parole and Probation had recommended before he sentenced Carleo to prison for armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. The recommended sentence would have given Carleo the opportunity for parole after three years in prison.

"It's unfortunate you took this route," Villani told Carleo.

Prosecutor Chris Owens never asked for a specific prison term but did request that Villani run the Suncoast sentence consecutively to Carleo's Bellagio prison term. The maximum sentence under state law was in the range of 12 to 30 years.

Owens later said having the sentences run consecutively meant Carleo would have to go through four different parole hearings, which could force a lengthier prison stay.

After the hearing, defense attorney Bill Terry said he was "greatly disappointed" by Villani's ruling.

Terry said he thought Villani's decision was influenced in part by what the judge deemed was "a relatively lenient sentence" in the Bellagio case. On Tuesday, Judge Michelle Leavitt sentenced Carleo to three to 11 years in prison for robbing the Bellagio of $1.5 million gambling chips.

Terry added that Carleo is glad the matter is behind him and is ready to serve his time.

Meanwhile, the matter of restitution in the Bellagio case must still be settled. Owens and Terry could not agree on an amount for Carleo to pay back.

Owens is asking for $793,000 in restitution to the Bellagio, based on police recovering about $775,000 of the missing $1.568 million in chips.

Terry argued the amount is meaningless because the missing chips no longer have value. The Bellagio changed chips after the robbery.

But Owens said that during the weeks following the heist, evidence showed Carleo had used the stolen chips to gamble and live at the Bellagio as a high-roller.

Leavitt will decide restitution at a later date.

Villani on Thursday ordered Carleo to pay $18,945 in restitution to the Suncoast, the amount he robbed from the casino.

Carleo was arrested Feb. 2 and charged in the Bellagio heist after he sold 14 stolen $25,000 chips to an undercover Las Vegas police officer.

The officer, Michael Gennaro, testified at a Feb. 23 hearing that Carleo was on a self-described drug and gambling binge that was spiraling out of control.

Gennaro testified that during five meetings with Carleo, the officer bought the chips at a cut rate of $7,000 to $10,000 each.

Carleo told Gennaro during the meetings that he had gambled away $300,000 at the Bellagio, including $70,000 on New Year's Eve alone.

Gennaro said Carleo complained about his father, former Las Vegas municipal Judge George Assad, who was upset with the son's lifestyle of drug use and gambling and had cut his allowance from $1,000 a month to $600. Carleo was using cocaine and OxyContin, according to the officer's testimony.

The Bellagio robbery made international headlines and featured security footage of an armed man briskly walking through the casino in a motorcycle helmet.

In both the Bellagio and Suncoast robberies, Carleo used a motorcycle for a quick getaway and wore a helmet to conceal his face. No one was hurt in either heist.

After Thursday's hearing, Assad, who in June lost his bid for re-election to the bench, ignored requests for comment about his son's case.