Top 10 Real Life Casino Heists

We've all seen movies portraying slick robberies, intricate scams and audacious cons on casinos. And more often than not the heroes of the silver screen get away with it. Or at the very least avoid jail and get the girl (or guy).

But with millions of dollars being won and lost every day at casinos, it's perhaps no surprise that they've attracted their fair share of real world heists over the years as well. Here are ten that have gone down in history:

Bellagio, Las Vegas (2000)

Jose Vigoa, together with his accomplices Luis Suarez and Oscar Sanchez, took part in this infamous heist at the Bellagio in Las Vegas in 2000. Vigoa was no novice: he had been involved in a string of casino and armoured truck robberies prior to the job. But this time it didn’t go to plan. The trio tried to steal $160,000 (£110,000), jumping over the cashier counter to grab the money and chips. Vigoa, already a wanted man, didn't bother to wear a mask during the heist and was spotted. A chase followed, Sanchez was caught, and the other two were arrested shortly after. Vigoa was handed four life sentences in jail, putting an end to his career as an armed robber.

Treasure Island, Las Vegas (2000)

A series of three, almost identical robberies took place at Treasure Island in Las Vegas in 2000, all carried out by the same unhinged assailant. The thief made off without any loot on his first two attempts and it turned out to be third time unlucky for him when he was quickly caught after making off with $30,000 (£20,000) on attempt number three.His name was Reginald Johnson, and he shot and injured a security guard during the robbery. He was arrested just a few hours after the third heist and was sentenced to 130 years in prison, laughing manically in court as the incriminating CCTV footage of himself was played during the trial.

Stardust, Las Vegas (1992)

In September 1992, long term casino employee Bill Brennan pulled off one of the greatest robberies of all time. A cashier at the Stardust casino in Las Vegas, one day in September he got up to go for his lunch break and simply walked out f the casino. That might not sound so unusual, but at the time he was carrying a bag containing $500,000 (£342,000) of the casino's money in chips and cash, which he casually slung over his shoulder.

Brennan has never been caught, despite being on the FBI’s most wanted list. Many suspect he left the country with the cash to start a new life. To this day, the case remains unsolved.

Ritz Casino, London (2004)

At the Ritz Casino in London in 2004, two Serbian men and a Hungarian female accomplice played roulette over a period of two days and won £1.3 million. But they had more than just good luck on their side. It turned out they were using high-tech laser scanners in their phones that linked them up to a remote computer which predicted the number the ball would land on. As it needed to analyse the wheel, predict the outcome and communicate the results all in time so a bet could be placed (within three spins of the roulette wheel), security experts had previously believed that such a system was impossible to build. The trio were eventually caught – but at the court case that followed, the judge ruled they had not done anything illegal and so incredibly they got to keep their money!

Playing the System in Vegas and Worldwide (1990s)

This famous case of students gaming the system in the 1990s was the inspiration behind the 2008 Kevin Spacey movie '21'. The team of maths whizzes from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a system that turned the Blackjack odds in their favour and helped them to win a lot of money from casinos in Las Vegas and around the world. While their tactics weren't illegal, they quickly drew attention from casinobosses who would throw them out or confiscate cash if they were caught, and so the team often woredisguises and played different made up characters to get away undetected.

Bellagio, Las Vegas (2010)

In 2010 Anthony Carleo, the son of a high court judge, pulled up outside the Bellagio in Las Vegas on a motorcycle. He then brazenly stole $1.5 million (£1.2 million) of chips at gunpoint from the craps table and made a clean getaway with the stash. Problems came when he had to get rid of the chips, some of which were valued up to $25,000 (£17,000). Making the mistake of trying to do this online, Carleo unwisely used the signature “biker bandit” in an online casino forum where he posted images of the stolen chips. After bragging about his crime and even returning to use the chips in the casino, he was caught trying to sell them to an undercover police officer and jailed for 9 years.

Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas (2005)

In 2005, two masked men approached the change booth at Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas and held up the cashier with a gun. Witnesses say warning shots were fired and they were forced to the ground, a lot like many bank heists seen in the movies. The robbers stole what remains to this day an undisclosed amount of money and quickly made off in a car parked outside.Neither the police nor the casino have been willing to divulge exactly how much money was stolen, or details of how the robbers pulled off the heist. It has been estimated that the men involved made off with a significant sum and it's likely that the casino wanted to keep the story quiet to avoid the embarrassment of being robbed, seemingly so easily. Details have never been released about whether they were caught, which many people suspect means they probably got away completely scot-free!

Circus Circus Casino (1993)

In October 1993, couple Heather Tallchief and Roberto Solis pulled a Bonnie and Clyde and stole an armoured truck from the Circus Circus casino. Tallchief was working undercover at the security company responsible for the truck at the time, while Solis had recently been released from a 17 year stretch for a armed robbery and murder. They drove the truck to a nearby warehouse, helped themselves to the $2.5 million (£1.7 million) inside and fled the country.

However their romance wasn't meant to be and Solis left Tallchief (and the child they'd had while on the run) shortly after, taking all but
$1,000 (£680) with him. After more than a decade as a wanted woman Tallchief surrendered, claiming she could no longer live with the guilt, and was given five years in prison. Solis remains at large.

Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas (2005)

In 2005, two masked men approached the change booth at Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas and held up the cashier with a gun. Witnesses say warning shots were fired and they were forced to the ground, a lot like many bank heists seen in the movies. The robbers stole what remains to this day an undisclosed amount of money and quickly made off in a car parked outside.Neither the police nor the casino have been willing to divulge exactly how much money was stolen, or details of how the robbers pulled off the heist. It has been estimated that the men involved made off with a significant sum and it's likely that the casino wanted to keep the story quiet to avoid the embarrassment of being robbed, seemingly so easily. Details have never been released about whether they were caught, which many people suspect means they probably got away completely scot-free!

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