On Thursday, one of four men involved in a long-running scam that managed to siphon $1 million from the Bellagio, was sentenced to a two to five-year prison term, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Pleading guilty to one count of theft in connection with the orchestration of phony bets from August 2012 to July 2014, 44-year-old James R. Cooper Jr., received the sentence despite Cooper’s attorney, Amy Chelini, requesting that her client be sentenced to probation.
Also sentenced in the case were Mark Branco, a former dealer at the Las Vegas casino, along with Jeffrey Martin and Anthony Granito. All three received prison sentences in the case, with Branco receiving the harshest sentence of four to 10 years. Prosecutors said that he was the leader of the scheme. Once a professional baseball player, Martin received three to 8.3 years as did Granito who is a friend of Branco, according to the news agency.
Cooperating with the authorities, Cooper laid out the scheme that played out for nearly two years, until in 2014, casino authorities happened to take notice of a series of winning wagers, which according to them, defied 452-billion-to-1 odds.
According to an MGM statistician, instead of losing $712,029, which is what the odds indicated the crew would’ve lost over the two-year period, it won $1,086,400. The more than $33,000 in comps that had been amassed by Granito and Martin’s $12,000 haul, could have been used on spa visits, shows, free rooms, or dinners, however, the quartet cashed in on very little.
Defense lawyers for the crew disputed that all of winnings were stolen money, arguing instead that sometimes the group won legitimate bets. According to the report, thousands of dollars were lost by Granito and Martin on fair wagers placed to distract attention, but the two always walked away winners due to the phantom bets.