Ex-Casino Workers Charged with Stealing $5.3M from Gaming Machines

  • Eight employees rigged gaming machines, making them think coins were being inserted
  • Printed credit vouchers and cashed out a total of $5.3 million over four years
  • Covered their tracks by deleting transaction records from the machines
  • Used proceeds to buy property, vehicles, and fund college savings accounts
Former employees of Miami’s Miccosukee Resort & Gaming casino have been indicted for allegedly stealing $5.3 million from altered video gaming machines. [Image: Shutterstock]

Ex-employees face a litany of charges

Eight Miami-area residents were indicted Wednesday for their roles in a scheme which saw them steal more than $5 million from Miccosukee Resort & Gaming, a casino just west of Miami.

Among the 63 counts revealed in the indictment, which was unsealed by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, were computer fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, and making false statements to law enforcement.

The eight people charged in the indictment are, in the order presented by the USAO in a press release, Michel Aleu, 41-years old; Lester Lavin, 43; Yohander Jorrin Melhen, 42; Leonardo Betancourt, 46; Maria Del Pilar Aleu, 39; Anisleydi Vergel Hermida, 30; Milagros Marile Acosta Torres, 33; and Yusmary Shirley Duran, 40.

Manipulated gaming machines to pay them millions

The in-depth scheme that allegedly spanned from late January 2011 to late May 2015 relied on the positions that Aleu, Lavin, Melhen, and Betancourt held as employees at Miccosukee Resort & Gaming. Because they had access to and knowledge of the gaming machines such as video slots, they were able to tamper with them to add non-existent credits.

[They] covered up their crimes by initiating a “hard reset” or “RAM clear” of the machines to wipe the history of the fake transactions.

The four employees hooked up one end of a wire to a device that was placed inside a gaming machine, and the other end to a metal surface in the machine. This triggered an action that caused the machine to think that coins were being inserted.

As a result, the machine would run up a balance of credits in the same way it would if a legitimate customer had deposited money.

The casino workers would then have the machine print a payment voucher, which they would redeem at an automated teller on the casino floor. They also occasionally cashed the vouchers with the cashier.

According to the Miami Herald, the four employees covered up their crimes by initiating a “hard reset” or “RAM clear” of the machines to wipe the history of the fake transactions.

In all, the group stole $5.3 million from Miccosukee Resort & Gaming.

Defendants funneled money into other assets

The USAO press release did not specify the roles of the other four people named in the indictment, but all eight were charged with money laundering.

They allegedly used the money to buy homes, investment properties, and vehicles, and even contributed some of the funds to their children’s college savings plans.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Miccosukee Police Department. Two of those charged – Lavin and Hermida – appeared in court on Tuesday, while the others were scheduled to have their first hearings on Thursday. Arraignments will begin next week.

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