Friday, August 17, 2012

Nevada Casino Analyst Gets Nearly 5 Years in Prison for Player Club Points Cheat Scam

Source: Las Vegas Review Journal A former analyst with the state's largest casino company was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison Monday in an elaborate player's club scheme on the Strip.

Tony Ahn, 29, who lost his job amid the cheating scandal, pleaded guilty in May to spearheading the conspiracy. He acknowledged betraying the trust of his company, then known as MGM Mirage, to unlawfully win $863,895 from slot machines.

U.S. District Judge James Mahan ordered Ahn on Monday to pay the entire $863,895 in restitution and serve two years of supervised release after he gets out of prison.The judge gave Ahn until Nov. 5 to surrender to federal prison authorities."This is an American tragedy to see you here," Mahan told Ahn. "You have so much potential. I hope you see this as a positive and turn your life around."

Ahn apologized to the judge and promised never to get in trouble with the law again."I definitely made a big mistake," he said. "There's no excuse for what I did." His lawyer, Thomas Pitaro, told Mahan that Ahn has "all the talent in the world" and hopes to make up for his wrongdoing when he gets out of prison.

In arguing for the 57 months behind bars, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Chu said Ahn had used inside company knowledge to plan the lucrative scheme and recruit members to it. Ahn used his company position to identify regular customers with unused free play points, then transferred the points to counterfeit players club cards and recruited people to play slot machines with the cards at the company's casinos along the Strip, Chu previously alleged in court papers.

Free play points earned by thousands of MGM Mirage club members, many of whom lived outside Nevada, were stolen between July 2009 and July 2010, according to prosecutors. The company under its new name, MGM Resorts International, owns 16 casinos in Nevada, including 10 on the Strip.

Four other indicted members of Ahn's ring - Joseph Ramirez, David Evans, David Pecor and Ahn's brother, Danny Ahn - have pleaded guilty and are waiting to be sentenced.

Alan Feldman, senior vice president of public affairs for MGM Resorts International, said at the time of Ahn's plea that the company's internal Fraud Control Group uncovered the scheme and reported it to Nevada gaming regulators and the FBI. The scheme unraveled in March 2010 after state authorities arrested one of the unindicted members of the group for playing with counterfeit players club cards. Shortly after the arrest, Ahn and the group took measures to cover their tracks. They buried a computer, card encoder, flash drive and blank player's club cards used in the scheme in the desert, prosecutors alleged. Months later, however, with the help of cooperating defendants, FBI agents dug up the items and impounded them as evidence.

My take: Once again, a rat within the cheat team brought down the mastermind. This whole scam is very reminiscent of the Ron Harris story. Harris, while working as a programmer and technician for the testing lab of the Nevada Gaming Control Board in the mid 90s, rigged slot jackpots and keno games to bilk casinos out of hundreds of thousands.