Our 5 Most Famous Las Vegas Casino Robberies

Almost 40 million people visit Las Vegas every year, most want to come for a good holiday and the potential casino winnings. With so much money in circulation among multiple establishments, it’s no surprise that other groups of people are attracted to Las Vegas for a different reason. Criminals come to the Sin City planning heists on some of the largest casinos in the world. What inspires some these people to do what they do is beyond our comprehension, with most heist attempts being snuffed out and all members ending up in jail. Some heists fail due to lack of planning or manpower however some do succeed with criminals becoming very wealthy in the process. This will be a recollection through history, here are the 5 most notorious casino robberies to have ever taken place in Las Vegas.
A thief caught on CCTV.
Published on: 28 December 2019

Bellagio Cash Cage Robbery (2000)

As the new millennium came around, the percentage of casino robberies increased to 10-20 more attempts made every year on both small- and large-scale establishments. However, the most prolific of these early 2000s attempts was the Bellagio Cash Cage robbery. Oscar Cisneros then 23 and Jose Manuel Vigoa then 40 entered the casino wearing Kevlar and extensive body armor. Both were carrying firearms and they proceeded to jump over the counter and rob the cashier area. They managed to steal around $160,000 from the counter in both cash and casino chips. As they fled the scene one of them fired a round at one of the security guards however no one was injured.

The Bellagio hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Multiple security issues were later found in the casino which included:

  • Lack of CTTV which made it harder to convict the two perpetrators
  • Lack of entrance security to prevent the two men from entering in the first place
  • No emergency button behind the counter to instantly alert the authorities, this was done by an eyewitness in the casino hall.

Authorities soon caught up with the pair and arrested them almost half an hour after the initial incident had occurred. Both men were detained in Clark County Detention Center awaiting trial. However, Cisneros would commit suicide before his trial could take place by hanging himself in his cell. Vigoa was convicted alongside previous charges against him which included multiple casino robberies and the murders of two officers in Henderson. He pleaded guilty to all of these and was sentenced to 4 no-parole life sentences and an additional 306 to 760 years in prison. This robbery carried out in the heart of the American gambling industry would help encourage many casinos to install barred cashier areas to prevent this from happening so easily again.

Circus Circus Theft (1993)

The Circus Circus theft proves to be one of the most bizarre cases on our list. One of the alleged thieves would turn herself over to the authorities almost 12 years after she escaped with nearly $3 million in an armored truck. The perpetrator was a woman named Heather Tallchief who was a former Loomis Armor Inc driver. She confessed to her crimes stating that mounting guilt and constantly living on the run had made her weary. She also had a then 10-year-old son who she said she wanted to have a relatively normal life. Her then-boyfriend named Roberto Solis who was also a named suspect remains at large however with the two not seeing eye to eye on the situation.

Tallchief stated that she had fled to the Netherlands (where she met Solis) very soon after the heist had taken place. She also said that Solis still had all the money she had stolen. Still to this day neither he nor the money has been found by police of either nation. Tallchief would receive a five year and three-month sentence for her crimes and has since been released.

Bellagio ‘Biker Bandit’ Robbery (2010)

The second Bellagio robbery on our list, The Biker Bandit of 2010 went down in national history due to the nature of the heist. Anthony Carleo then 29 stole approximately $1.5 million worth of casino chips from Bellagio during a daring and fast-paced heist. He drove to the entrance on a motorbike (later revealed to be stolen) walked into the casino hall and started to demand chips from multiple tables at once threatening employees with a firearm. His initial heist was successful, and he managed to escape without being caught by police who arrived soon after he left.

Carleo would try and sell all the chips on an online poker website. He had multiple denominations including chips worth $25,000. He used the email cranberrykid25@yahoo.com in reference to the color of the chips he was trying to sell. He signed the emails with the phrase ‘biker bandit’. Almost seven weeks after the initial robbery had taken place, police managed to track him down. At this time, he was gambling with his ‘winnings’ and attempting to sell the chips online. Undercover officers managed to track him with his selling information. Carleo, the son of a former municipal court judge, confessed in front of a court and in August 2011 he was sentenced to 9 to 27 years in prison for the Bellagio incident and an earlier heist attempt at the Suncoast Casino 5 days before.

Stardust Casino theft (1992)

The Stardust Casino theft manages to be one of the most overlooked heists to take place in recent years perhaps due to the fact that the casino in question has now been demolished. William John Brennan a 34-year-old from Pennsylvania and an employee of Stardust Casino is suspected of stealing over $500,000 worth of cash and casino chips. He was never arrested for this and has not been since having vanished the scene and probably the country soon after.

When it took place back in 1992 it was considered a very prominent theft and received national and local news coverage. Police issued a warrant for his arrest, but they have been unsuccessful in arresting the man who still remains the main suspect to this day. Many of his fellow co-workers described him as ‘clean-cut’ and someone who kept to himself. Nothing is known of his current whereabouts or activities and he still remains wanted by police.

Treasure Island Robberies (2000)

The Treasure Island Robberies became infamous back in the 2000s due to a botched operation and multiple security guards being injured during the incident. Having had multiple attempts made on the casino in the same year security number would gradually increase over the course of the year. Reginald Johnson then 27 years old approached the entrance and fired a shot at one of the security guards while he walked towards the main cashier area. He left empty-handed however and was arrested a few hours later at the Luke Mead Boulevard, Johnson and his brother Donnell had previously been suspects in a July 2000 robbery at Treasure Island where they were also unsuccessful.

Treasure Island hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In October 2000 an unknown assailant also hit the casino firing two shots at casino security and getting away with $30,000 in cash.

Reginald Johnson was convicted in January 2001 after pleading guilty to all three Treasure Island robberies. He was sentenced to 130 years in prison during an eventful court session where Johnson had several tantrums during the hearing and even laughed while watching the CCTV footage of him shooting the security. The Treasure Island robberies to this day remain some of the most notorious incidents in all of American history.

There have been attempts to rob online casinos over the years. However, in general, these have proved to be unsuccessful. You can read about online casino safety on our homepage. We also have some advice on how to stay safe while playing online in our real money gambling guide.

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