Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Atlantic City Poker Scam is clarified and deepens for Forte

The big high-tech poker scam busted in June and made public last week now seems to be confined to private games taking place in pricey hotel rooms inside the Borgata Hotel Casino. At least this is what the media is now reporting. Apparently the high-tech equipment was used to cheat high stakes players. Their trick was using tiny cameras to catch their opponents' hole cards and radio that info to cohorts in the game. Whatever the case, Steve Forte's claims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time now look much more like the wrong claims!

Here's the article:

Police crack high-stakes poker scheme
By DONALD WITTKOWSKI Staff Writer, (609) 272-7258
Published: Wednesday, July 25, 2007
ATLANTIC CITY — The police weren’t bluffing when they busted in on a high-stakes poker scam at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

What they found was a room filled with high-tech surveillance equipment that allowed a cheating ring to rip off poker players who participated in private games, authorities said.

One of four men arrested at Borgata on June 7 by New Jersey State Police was Steve Forte, a Las Vegas gaming consultant who is an internationally recognized expert on ways to thwart casino cheaters.

Forte, 51, is the author of Casino Game Protection, described on his Web site as a comprehensive guide covering the intricacies of casino scams and strategies. Perhaps the members of the State Police Organized Crime Bureau and Casino Unit read Forte’s book before making the Borgata raid.

Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, said Forte and his alleged co-conspirators set up private, big-money poker games at Borgata to cheat unsuspecting players. The private games were not connected to Borgata’s normal casino operations.

The scam artists used strategically placed surveillance cameras to peek at the players’ hands. The information was secretly relayed to an accomplice who wore an undetectable radio receiver in his ear. Computer programs and marked playing cards also were used by the cheaters to enhance their chances of winning, according to Aseltine.

“They were involved in a high-tech cheating scam that utilized sophisticated video and audio equipment, along with laptop computers,” Aseltine said.

Authorities divulged details of the scheme for the first time Tuesday, although they declined to say how they cracked the case. The investigation continues and could lead to other casino jurisdictions, including Las Vegas.

Forte, who lives in Las Vegas, was charged with using a computer and cheating devices to commit theft, attempted theft by deception and conspiracy. Joseph T. Ingargiola, 50, of Playa del Rey, Calif., Stephen Phillips, 52, of Las Vegas, and James Calvin Harrison, 41, of Duluth, Minn., are facing the same charges.

All four have been released on bail pending court hearings.

Forte did not return messages Tuesday to a Las Vegas telephone number listed on his Web site. He is the president of a consulting firm called International Gaming Specialists.

The Web site says Forte has been hired by gaming companies and law enforcement agencies worldwide to help them catch casino cheaters. He has acted as a gambling adviser for “Dateline NBC,” the Discovery Channel and a number of motion pictures, including “Rounders,” a 1998 movie starring Matt Damon about a reformed gambler who returns to playing high-stakes poker to help a friend pay off loan sharks.

In addition, Forte produced a four-part video series distributed worldwide to “help protect all those that play in private games from card and dice cheaters,” his Web site says.

Forte and the other suspects used hotel rooms at Borgata to conduct their alleged scheme, according to Aseltine. The games were private and not connected to the casino’s regular poker play.

At the same time that the scam was unfolding in June, Borgata had held a $1.7 million poker tournament that attracted 337 players and was billed as the largest event of its type in Atlantic City. Dave Coskey, Borgata’s vice president of marketing, said the tournament was untouched by the alleged cheating ring.

“To the best of my knowledge, they weren’t targeting our tournament,” Coskey said. “It was off the gaming floor. It wasn’t affecting our gaming at all.”

Unconfirmed reports had circulated that the suspects had tapped into a live video feed from a camera showing the “hole cards” of players in the poker tournament. However, Coskey said there were no hole-card cameras and no television coverage of the event, so the tourney could not have been compromised.

“There was no concern of a hole camera being tapped,” he said. “There couldn’t be, because we didn’t have a camera. There was no television.”