Revealed: How police foiled real life Ocean's 11 who robbed $7 MILLION in biggest casino scam in US history
A network of thieves stole more than $7 million from casinos across the United States using high-tech techniques and inside help, the FBI has revealed.
In what was the biggest casino heist in U.S. history the group, known as the Tran Organisation, developed a near fool-proof scam that saw them walk away with up to $900,000 per hit.
Their crimes began in 2002 when a dealer at San Diego’s Sycuan Casino was caught performing a trick known as a false shuffle,pretending to shuffle a deck of cards while actually keeping them in the order in which they were dealt.
Clued-up players at the table could track the order and know exactly how to bet.
The dealer was fired but it didn’t stop there, ABC reported.The FBI later discovered that the woman had in fact been gathering intelligence for former casino employee and avid gambler Phuong ‘Pai Gow John’ Truong, the criminal mastermind behind the gang.
Truong began recruiting dealers from various casinos who were willing to cash in on his plan by learning and performing false shuffles during games.
He moved to Sacramento, California with his wife, Van Tran and about 15 family members, checking in to the Cache Creek Casino.
There he organised a rotation of teams on mini-baccarat tables – the ideal game for their method because players are allowed to write down what cards have been dealt.
In March 2003 the crew stole $158,000, through shift after shift of undetectable cheating.
Off the back of their success the Tran Organisation spread out, sending teams to recruit more dealers and set up in virtually every casino in the West Coast, into Canada and the Midwest.
Typically the casinos didn’t realise they had been hit until two or three weeks after the teams had moved on to another venue, making it all the more easy for them to get away with their crimes.
By 2005, when the crew moved into Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, it had more than 40 people on board and was pulling an average of$50,000 every 10 minutes at the table.
Wanting more they moved on to blackjack where winnings are generally higher, but players are not allowed to write down the cards so the Trans had to change tactics.
They used hidden microphones with a tracker watching the order the cards were being dealt and reading them into the device while pretending to smoke a cigarette.
Outside the casino a second person would use a specially designed computer programme to talk to the tracker via an ear piece, reading out when and in what order the cards would come back out after the false shuffle.
Using hand signals the tracker would re-lay the information to others around the table.
‘Take a puff with one finger on, it says to make a bet. Take a puff with two fingers on the cigarette, that means to double down,’ Pete Casey, special agent for the FBI in San Diego, told ABC.
‘They started pulling a lot more money off the tables in a shorter amount of time.’
At their peak the Organisation pulled an enormous $868,000 at Resorts East in Chicago in October 2005 but greed took over and their carefully maintained scam began to fall apart.
Truong started short-changing his dealers who, in their bitterness, agreed to become informants for the FBI.
Armed with travel records, playing habits and currency transaction reports, agents for the Mississippi Gaming Commission went undercover to meet with Truong on June 8 2006.
They posed as dealers wanting in on the scam and Truong walked right into their trap.
A recording of the meeting, described by Casey as ‘one of the best undercover videos I've ever seen’ provided the final bit of evidence.
Acting of a tip off that Truong and his gang were headed back to the Sycuan Casino to hit it once again, FBI agents lay in wait.
They watched as tracker Willy Tran stole in excess of $20,000 in 20 minutes and swopped in.
The game was up and by 2007 Truong, along with 46 co-conspirators were arrested for racketeering, theft and money laundering.
Pleading guilty, Truong was sentenced to 70 months in prison and ordered to pay back millions to casinos and the government.
The full story will be played out on ABC’s 20/20 tonight at10pm.
News & Politics