According to the FBI website, the defendants have been charged for conspiring to cheat in at least ten casinos in Missouri, California and Illinois by using electronic devices. The electronic devices were able to predict the behavior of a certain make of slot machine. The slot machines are known as the Aristocrat Mark VI Electronic Gaming Device.
The electronic devices the Russian defendants used allowed them to guess the outcome of the machines by communicating with a foreign server, thus enabling them to win.
As a statement released by the St Louis Division of the FBI states, the men made several trips to the United States with the electronic devices (1). They used rental cars to travel to casinos in California, Missouri and Illinois.
It is believed that the men had been carrying out the fraud since May of 2014. Suspicion was roused due to the fact that their winnings were so high that nobody playing the games fairly could have possibly have won such amounts.
A Sophisticated System
Richard Callahan, Eastern Missouri’s US attorney (2), said that the Russians’ winnings went into six and seven figures and described their method of cheating as extremely sophisticated.
Murat Bliev, Igor Lavrenov, Yevgeniy Nazarov aand Ivan Gudaov – in their late 20s and 30s – have been indicated by a federal grand jury.
As proven by the Hollywood blockbuster Oceans 11, casino heists make entertaining movies. In real life however, the lives of casino fraudsters tend to be much less glamorous. If convicted, the men will carry out a maximum prison term of five years and could face fines of up to $250,000.
And the four casino scammers from Russia are certainly not the first real-life criminals who have tried to beat the casino system.
In 2002, a dealer in a casino in San Diego was caught for carrying out the “false shuffle”.
The false shuffle is a hand trick in which the dealer appears to be shuffling the cards but actually keeps a portion of the cards in the same order in which they were dealt. Players at the table therefore know the order the cards will be played.
An Ongoing Operation
As ABC News (3) reported, the dealer was working for a former casino employee and criminal mastermind Phuong Truong and his Tran gang. Truong had a team of dealers working at casinos and conducting the false shuffle during games.
“They had it set up like a business, where they had a day shift, night shift and graveyard. They were pulling out $20,000-a-round of cheating,” Casey, the lead agent working on the case, told ABC News.
The Tran gang became increasingly more sophisticated in their techniques and the FBI were constantly playing catch up. What eventually led to Truong’s demise was what usually results in a bad guy’s fall – greed.
As the Trang gang leader began to short change his dealers, they happily became FBI informants.
In 2007, Truong and 46 of his confederates were indicted for theft, racketeering and money laundering.
“They hit close to 19 casinos. They took in, what we could prove, around $7 million,” said Casey.
In terms of slot machine cheating, the most famous heister was Dennis Nikrascsh. Nikrascsh would visit casinos and, with the help of a team, insert a microchip into slot machines so it paid out the jackpot in the next spin. It is believed that Dennis Nikrascsh made in excess of $15 million cheating slot machines.
The case involving the four Russian men who attempted to beat the slot machine system using smartphones and other electronic devices is being investigated by the FBI with assistance from Homeland security.