Sunday, August 24, 2008
Enterprising Las Vegas Casino Cheats Do More Than Cheat The Casinos!
THE HOLE IN THE WALL GANG
Some notorious casino cheats had other scams going in addition to trying to take down Las Vegas’s glitzy casinos. One of these was the infamous Kansas City mobster Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, upon whom a character in the Martin Scorcese film Casino is based. While having a run of bad luck at the gambling tables in the early 1980s, Spilatro had an innovative idea for burglarizing Sin City’s luury hotel rooms. First thing he did was to grease certain hotel registration clerks working in the top casinos on the Strip. Then when one of these clerks became aware of the impending arrival of an extremely wealthy international high roller to his hotel, he informed Spilotro and reserved him a suite in a phony name adjoining that of the high roller.
Spilotro knew that many of casinos’ superrich preferred clientele did not bother with storing valuables in safe deposit boxes on the casino floor. It was too much trouble having to go through the process and the waiting each time they wanted to get into their boxes. And many did not trust or bother with the mini-safes in the hotel suites, thus they often left their valuables hastily hidden in their rooms. So when the clerk checked a member of Spilatro’s gang into the suite adjoining the high roller’s, the Hole-In-The-Wall Gang was ready to go to work.
They waited for the high roller to go down into the casino, where he was kept under surveillance by one of the gang, who’d alert Spilotro upstairs if the mark entered the elevator to go back up to his room. Then they got out their top-of-the-line Black and Decker power drills, equipped with customized noise reduction jackets expertly made in an auto repair shop owned by the mob (like car mufflers in theory), and began drilling through the wall into the adjoining suite. Once the hole was big enough to walk through they simply did so and rummaged the suite until they came upon cash, diamonds or other kinds of booty, or had to face the fact that this one was just for a view of an identical suite.
Two-dozen suites got hit in less than two years. When the cops investigated the “drill-ins” all they discovered were phony names and ID documents from hotels’ registration records and rooms containing no fingerprints other than those belonging to the victim or hotel employees. A connection to the front desk clerks was not suspected. The press lapped up the story and one mob reporter, who only assumed it was a mob operation involving several perpetrators, nicknamed them the Hole-In-The-Wall Gang in his series of articles.
And it was not only hotel rooms getting hit. In the middle of the night jewelry shops in malls were drilled into from neighboring stores rented and then abandoned afterward by the gang. Spilotro also hired mules, furnished them with fake ID and had them rent apartments in luxury highrise condominiums, where an assortment of people prone to have large sums of cash and jewelry in their apartments resided, mainly high-class call girls and drug dealers. When the cops investigated these residential cases all they found was the other side of the hole. In the apartments adjoining the victims’ there was never a single piece of furniture or anything else that left a clue of someone having recently lived there.
But one member of the gang was not happy with his share of the booty, so he called the cops on Tony, who was arrested in his own luxury highrise condo, which happened to be in a building where his gang had hit two apartments. The cops not only found the drills but even their bits containing plaster from the last wall they drilled through. The evidence was rock-solid and Spilotro was convicted and served several years in prison. Soon after his release he was found in the trunk of a car in Kansas City with several holes drilled into his body—though not from a Black and Decker but rather a Smith and Wesson.