Today, we have a collection of some of the best casino heists of all time. These might not all be the “biggest heists ever,” but they are definitely the most interesting. Surprisingly, a few of these people managed to get away clean. As for everyone else… well, you’ll have to read on to see how they fared.
Now, let’s see who got away, who got caught and who got killed in some of the most brazen (and ridiculous) casino heists of all time.
1. Bill Brennan – The One That Got Away
Bill Brennan was a cashier at the Stardust Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in 1992 when he decided to pull off one of the greatest casino robberies of all time. He had been a long term employee of the casino for years, so nobody took notice when he simply walked out the front door one day with a duffel bag containing $500,000 worth of stolen cash and chips.
This might not be the biggest casino heist of all time, but it’s definitely one of the best. To this day, Bill Brennan has never been captured. He might be living it up on a beach in Mexico or he might be dead for all we know. One thing is certain though; he’s not sitting in a jail cell.
2. Not Quite Bonnie and Clyde
Heather Tallchief was an armored car driver making a stop at the Circus Circus casino in 1993 when she suddenly drove off with $2.5 million in cash. She managed to get away clean until turning herself in 12 years later. She was sentenced to only five years in prison for the crime.
Upon further questioning, Heather revealed that it was her boyfriend who had convinced her to pull off the robbery. The only problem is that her boyfriend took the money and disappeared after Heather had their baby. Roberto Solis, the alleged mastermind of this whole operation, has never been seen or heard from since.
So did this mystery boyfriend really take the money and run or does Heather Tallchief have a couple million dollars buried somewhere on the outside? That’s anybody’s guess, but what we do know is that the money hasn’t been turned in to authorities.
3. The Biker Bandit
In December of 2010, a man on a motorcycle parked his bike in the valet area, walked into the Bellagio wearing his helmet and used a gun to steal about $1.5 million worth of chips. He then made a clean getaway on his conveniently-placed motorcycle.
The only problem is that many of the chips that the biker bandit stole were high value chips, worth $25,000 apiece. The casino soon put out an alert to all cashiers (and spread the news to the entire gambling community) that high denomination chips were recently stolen. The Bellagio later issued a statement saying it would discontinue all $25,000 chips within the next couple of weeks.
This put the biker bandit under considerable pressure to get rid of his chips. So, he made an account at a popular online poker forum and joined a discussion about the robbery. Eventually, he met someone through the poker forums, sent pictures of the stolen chips and offered to sell the chips at a discount. The other person contacted the police and the biker bandit was quickly apprehended.
4. The Hopper Family Heists
Back in the early 90s, a family from Texas moved to Las Vegas for a fresh start. The head of the family, a man named Royal Mayne Hopper, got a job as a security guard at the Stardust Casino. He used his time there to learn the security procedures for the casino and then hatched a plan that would eventually net more than a million dollars.
For the first scheme, Royal enlisted his son to pull a fake stickup. While Royal and a coworker were escorting money through the casino, Royal’s son Bobby showed up with a mask and gun and demanded the guards to hand over the money. Royal reported the incident as if he had no idea who the robber was. This earned the Hoppers more than $150,000.
The second time around, Royal enlisted both of his sons, Bobby and Jeff, to rob an armored truck outside the Stardust. Jeff called in a false report of a fight at the pool. Royal, Bobby and a man named Wesley Carroll waited for the armored truck with wigs and fake beards.
When the truck driver showed up, the robbers deployed smoke bombs as a further diversion and rushed the armored truck driver. They took 2 bags containing more than a million dollars in currency and negotiable instruments.
Everyone eventually got caught and did time, but they got away with a lot of money for a while. Interestingly, I got in touch with Jeff Hopper some time ago and we had a long interview. He has an awesome story to tell about his life in crime, sentence and turn to the good side of the law.
See the Jeff Hopper interview here.
5. The Soviet Commando from Cuba
Jose Vigoa grew up in Cuba but was sent to the Soviet Union to join the Spetsnaz special forces group. He later returned to Cuba and then moved to the United States during the Mariel boatlift of 1980. He eventually made his way to Las Vegas and tried to live the good life. Unfortunately, he found it difficult to make a living in Las Vegas. This is when he decided to put his special forces training to a new purpose…
Jose Vigoa joined the Las Vegas underworld, started dealing drugs and eventually did a little time in prison. When he was released, he once again had a hard time making a living. This time around, though, he decided to use his surveillance and weapons skills to rob armored trucks and five casinos. He got away with several million dollars during this time, but his last casino robbery was less than successful.
Wearing nothing more than a baseball cap and sunglasses, Jose Vigoa entered the Bellagio and staged yet another heist. This time, however, the casino managed to get detailed, close-up images of the weakly-disguised Vigoa. He was eventually located and, after a high speed chase with police, sentenced to 500 years in prison.
6. Lasers, Not Guns
For our last casino heist, we make the switch from brazen stickups to brainy schemes. In 2004, a group of three people armed with nothing more than lasers and a dream entered the Ritz Casino in London and made off with £1.2 million at the roulette table. The team somehow used the lasers to estimate the speed of the roulette wheel and then figure out the most likely numbers for the ball to land.
The most interesting part of all is that although the roulette scheme team was caught and arrested, a judge let them go scot-free. Somehow, the scheme slipped through a legal loophole and allowed the trio to walk out of prison, richer by £1.2 million. Not bad for a few days’ work I’d say.
Tagged with: crime