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America’s Most Dumbest: Bellagio Chip Bandit’s Downfall

Written by:
Jagajeet Chiba
Published on:
Feb/05/2011
Bellagio Chip Bandit

America's Dumbest Criminals:  The suspected Bellagio chip bandit Anthony Carleo bragged about a big gambling score while downing shots with friends, emailed pics of the stolen chips to a perfect stranger and admitted to an uncover officer when asked if he would like to be part of a gang planning to rob the Bellagio Hotel, that he already robbed it. 

Jessie James he’s not….and Carleo is no George Clooney either.

The suspect in the brazen robbery that occurred on December 14 appears to be the complete polar opposite of that bandit who entered the Bellagio brandishing a gun and making off on a motorcycle with casino chips in denominations from $100 to $25,000.  It was like something out of “Ocean’s 11”.

The events leading up to his Wednesday arrest looked more like they were taken from the film “Dumbo”.

An undercover officer purchased four of the Bellagio $25,000 chips from Carleo after the suspect exchanged phone numbers with a poster on the TwoPlusTwo.com Poker Forum. 

“There was a thread just speculating on what happened to the chips, how he was going to get rid of the chips, whether it was possible, whether or not he’ll get caught, who he’d go to,” forum member Matthew Brooks told the Las Vegas Sun. “Just trying to figure it out, because it’s kind of an interesting subject, you know?”

Brooks would eventually correspond with a poster by the name of “Ocean-spray25.”

“His first few posts were directed at me saying, ‘Hey, I need to talk to you about this,’ ” Brooks said. “I was kind of taken aback by it, it was kind of surprising.”

“Ocean-spray25” then approached Brooks about paying 20 cents on the dollar for the casino chips and how many he might be willing to purchase.

Brooks assumed the discussion was hypothetical.  He believes now that “Ocean-spray25” may have mistook Brooks for a high roller.

“I don’t have anywhere near the amount of cash to do this type of thing. I think he saw me posting (on the website) about the secondary market for chips, just speculating on whether or not there is one … and the nature of how (the suspect) would get rid of the chips,” Brooks said. “I’m assuming that’s why he contacted me.”

The two exchanged phone numbers and finally spoke.

“At this point, I was just very curious, like, ‘What in the world is going on here?’ I approached this from a curiosity perspective to figure out if this guy was for real or if he was a scammer,” Brooks said.

“The more I talked to him, the more I figured out this was probably the guy. Over the course of talking with him, he was just nervous and really anxious and told me about how he had blown through the lower denomination chips just partying for the last month or so. I’m sure that’s not hard to do in Vegas.”

Carleo even returned to the scene of the crime a number of times.  More recently, he appeared desperate and out of control.

The Associated Press reported that, on Jan. 4, Carleo lost an $11,000 pot, then left and came back a short time later with $5,000 in chips, the source said.

His activity at the tables didn't match what he was cashing out, and casino workers noticed.

After losing big at the Bellagio, Carleo told people he knew from the poker tables he was behind the heist. A police informant told officers he'd heard about Carleo from a

"The friend also told the confidential informant that Carleo had mentioned that he was hurting for money and might have to do something drastic in the next several days," the report said.

Everything Carleo could possibly do wrong to get caught, he did.

- Jagajeet Chiba, Gambling911.com

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