Casino heists often sound like something straight out of a thrilling Hollywood movie. And the best part for those writing these movies is that they don’t need to stretch their imaginations too far.

These heists aren’t just the stuff of films; they happen in real life more frequently than many might guess. When imagining a casino heist, many picture scenes from the movie Ocean’s 11 with George Clooney and Brad Pitt leading the charge.

While the character Danny Ocean is purely fictional, the reality is that casino heists do happen. Sure, not every heist involves stealing $160 million, but smaller-scale thefts are surprisingly common.

Recent Heists in Las Vegas

Las Vegas has seen a string of casino robberies recently. For example, Dshante Styles was arrested for her involvement in six armed robberies across various Las Vegas casinos.

The specific casinos targeted in these robberies weren’t disclosed, but these incidents began in November 2022. There were also robberies at notable locations such as the Gold Coast Hotel & Casino, Green Valley Ranch, Silverton Casino, and Rampart Casino reported recently.

Even the Las Vegas Strip wasn’t spared, with attempts at heists there too. In one instance in January 2023, 37-year-old James Booth demanded money at the Caesars Palace casino cage, threatening violence if his demands weren’t met.

A couple of months before that, another individual targeted Resorts World, the newest addition to the Las Vegas Strip, demanding money with a note and then fleeing in a taxi.

While these recent thefts are alarming, they don’t quite measure up to some of the most bold and brazen casino heists in history. Let’s dive into some of the most notorious casino heists of all time.

The Bellagio Casino Heist – $160,000 (June 2000)

Some people who plan casino heists have never shown any hint of criminal behavior before. They’re not known by the police and have no criminal record.

Then, there’s Jose Vigoa. Unlike those without a criminal past, Vigoa was a known criminal involved in several casino robberies. As the leader of a group responsible for robbing Las Vegas casinos, Vigoa, and his team hit the MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Desert Inn, and finally, the Bellagio, stealing millions of dollars.

Vigoa, born in Cuba and trained by the Soviet special forces, had a violent history, including the killing of two armored car drivers in a previous heist. The attempt at the Bellagio by Vigoa, along with Oscar Sanchez Cisneros and Luis Suarez, marked the beginning of their end.

During this robbery, they entered the casino’s cashier area by force and took $160,000. As they left the Bellagio, shots were fired. Just four days after the heist, Vigoa was involved in a high-speed police chase.

The chase ended with Vigoa crashing into a tree, his wife and young child also in the car. That crash marked the end of Vigoa’s two-year spree of robbing casinos in Las Vegas. He was later convicted for the murder of two armored car drivers in a separate robbery.

Cisneros took his own life in jail a few weeks after being arrested. Vigoa is now serving four life sentences for his role in the deaths of the armored car drivers.

For those interested in learning more about the Bellagio heist led by Vigoa, the book “Storming Las Vegas” offers a detailed account. There were plans to turn the book into a movie, but it seems those plans are currently paused.

The Stardust Casino Heist – $500,000 (September 1992)

The robbery at Stardust Casino might not hold the record for the biggest heist, but it remains one of the most fascinating and unsolved mysteries in casino history.

On September 22, 1992, Bill Brennan, a sportsbook cashier at Stardust Casino, walked out of the casino as usual after his shift. But this day was different. Brennan left with more than $500,000 in casino chips and cash.

Assigned to tally the day’s earnings, Brennan knew exactly where the security cameras were focused and managed to leave the casino unnoticed. It wasn’t until hours later when chips and cash were found missing, that the casino management contacted the police.

When authorities checked Brennan’s apartment, they found no sign of him or his cat. Brennan had disappeared into thin air. In 2006, the state of Nevada officially closed the case, leaving this heist shrouded in mystery.

For Brennan to successfully pull off this heist, it’s speculated that he must have had help to exchange the stolen chips for cash. Back then, casino chip security wasn’t as advanced as it is today.

Security measures, both in physical casinos and online platforms, have significantly tightened over the past two decades. Nowadays, bypassing security cameras and cashing out stolen chips without being detected by RFID technology is virtually impossible.

Stardust Casino Heist – $1.1 Million (April 1992)

Before Bill Brennan’s infamous heist, another daring robbery took place at Stardust Casino earlier in the same year. This time, Royal Mayne Hopper Jr., a former security guard at the casino, along with his sons, executed a bold plan. They ambushed an armored car driver and made off with $1.1 million, consisting of $500,000 in cash and $600,000 in negotiable checks.

Their method was like something from a film; they used smoke bombs to create confusion and obscure security’s vision near the casino cage, then fled in a prepared getaway car.

Interestingly, this wasn’t Hopper Jr.’s first involvement in a casino theft. Back in September 1991, while still working as a security guard at Stardust, he was “robbed” of $150,000 by gunmen as he was moving a cart of cash and chips within the casino.

Though he faced no charges for the earlier $150,000 incident, Hopper Jr. was eventually caught and imprisoned for the $1.1 million heist.

Bellagio Casino Robbery – $1.5 Million (December 2010)

In a more modern tale of casino theft, Anthony Carleo pulled off a heist at the Bellagio, stealing $1.5 million just five days after robbing the Suncoast Casino of $19,000. Dressed in motorcycle attire and helmet, Carleo hit a craps table in the early hours, armed with a gun, and made off with $1.5 million in casino chips.

He fled the scene on his Suzuki motorcycle, earning the nickname “Biker Bandit.” But Carleo didn’t stop there. He brazenly returned to gamble at the Bellagio, even sitting at the same craps table he had robbed.

To stay under the radar, he avoided using the high-value $25,000 chips, known as “cranberries.” However, heavy gambling losses soon had Carleo desperate for cash. He took to the TwoPlusTwo poker forum under the username “oceanspray25,” seeking someone to exchange his two $25,000 chips.

But Carleo’s plan unraveled. Authorities traced his IP address from the forum, and the digital trail helped convict him.

Soboba Casino Heist – $1.5 Million (August 2007)

An inside job at Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, California, saw Rolando Luda Ramos, a surveillance technician, mastermind a $1.5 million theft. Leveraging his knowledge of the casino’s surveillance systems, Ramos orchestrated the heist with precision. He confronted his coworkers at gunpoint, restrained three employees with zip ties, and filled a duffel bag with cash from the vault. After securing $1.5 million, Ramos fled the scene and went into hiding.

The Los Angeles Police Department eventually located Ramos at a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport. At his arrest, he attempted to disguise himself with a low-cost wig and was found with cocaine. It was discovered that Ramos had squandered nearly a million dollars on various expenses, including travel, entertainment, lodging, drugs, and food.

Circus Circus Casino Theft – $3.1 Million (October 1993)

Heather Tallchief, along with her accomplice Roberto Solis, is behind one of the largest casino robberies, stealing around $3 million from the Circus Circus casino in Las Vegas in 1993. After being dismissed from her job as a nursing assistant in the Bay Area due to cocaine usage, Tallchief met Solis in a nightclub in 1993. Falling on tough times, she became dependent on Solis, who lived in an apartment adorned with occult symbols and substances, which influenced Tallchief deeply.

Solis convinced Tallchief to work for Loomis Armored, which serviced several Las Vegas casinos, including Circus Circus. On October 1, 1993, deviating from her usual duties of replenishing ATMs with cash, Tallchief vanished with an armored van and $3 million during her first stop at Circus Circus.

Initially thought to be a victim, it later emerged that Tallchief was actively involved in the heist. After 12 years on the run, she surrendered to the authorities, claiming she had been manipulated by Solis into participating in the robbery.

Tallchief has completed her prison sentence and has been released, while Solis is still at large, considered armed and dangerous. The Circus Circus casino robbery is chronicled in the Netflix documentary series “Heist.”

Crown Casino Melbourne Heist – $33 Million (March 2013)

Inside jobs, often facilitated by employees with in-depth knowledge of the casino’s security systems, are a common theme in the biggest casino robberies. At Jacob Packer’s Crown Casino in Melbourne, a collision between a high-stakes gambler and casino staff led to a staggering $33 million theft. James Manning, a millionaire, and VIP patron, was coaxed into the high-limit area by a services manager for what appeared to be a regular invitation for high rollers.

This invitation, however, was anything but ordinary. It was a calculated move, part of a scheme where the VIP services manager was in cahoots with Manning. Playing blackjack, Manning’s winning streak seemed endless, racking up eight consecutive wins to amass $33 million.

The security team grew suspicious of Manning’s unusual bet sizes and continuous success. They soon realized the security cameras had been compromised, revealing the scam’s depth. Manning was receiving covert signals, aided by the manipulated cameras and the complicit manager.

When security finally caught on, they confronted Manning in his suite, asking him to leave the casino. Since most of the winnings hadn’t yet been transferred to Manning, the casino chose not to press charges, hoping to avoid public attention.

The incident occurred just before Manning was expected to partake in a publicity event for the casino. He planned to buy “The Winston,” a cognac-based cocktail priced at $12,500, aiming to set a world record for the most expensive cocktail ever purchased. With Manning banned, the casino hastily arranged for another high roller to buy the drink, promising reimbursement.

This heist not only cost Crown Casino $33 million but also forced them to navigate the fallout from a high-profile scam and a subsequent publicity hiccup.

Online Casino Heists: A Different Story

The daring and dramatic heists that have hit physical casinos over the years simply couldn’t occur in an online setting. There’s no physical vault or cash cages to target, no armored vans to hijack.

The likelihood of losing your funds due to a cyberattack on a secure online casino is incredibly low. These sites don’t keep your deposits on the same servers that run the games. Plus, they’re equipped with advanced firewalls to fend off unwanted digital intruders, including malicious bots.

Moreover, a player’s details are safeguarded with top-notch encryption technologies. Coupled with SSL certifications and secure banking methods, online casinos today offer multiple defense layers, making it almost impossible for anyone to access your money or personal information unlawfully.

Explore our top picks for safe online casinos and play your favorite games with peace of mind.

Wild Casino

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Bovada Casino

Renowned for its impeccable safety record, Bovada has been a trusted name in online gambling since 1994. With decades of experience and a commitment to cybersecurity, Bovada continues to safeguard its site and its players’ interests diligently.

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