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When you wake up well rested on a great mattress, everything becomes clear. I do make everything about me. Things you missed when you were tired finally reveal themselves.


That meeting could have been an email.


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This podcast is intended for mature audiences. Listener discretion is advised.


Take a little pick. Sad.


My wife almost always answered the.




And she immediately knew at morning it was probably for me.


It was the early morning of December 14, 2010, when Clint Nichols was roused from a dead sleep.


We had a rule in Robbie. The first thing they do is, are your feet on the floor, because you don't want to tell anybody anything important while they're still laying in bed.


But for a detective of the Las Vegas Metro Police department, it was just part of the job.


So I would get up and go in the bathroom, make sure I was fully standing up and upright and blood was flowing properly. And then I'd go, okay, I'm standing. What's up? Then they told me the bellagio had just been robbed.


From wavelength and pegolo pictures. This is the high roller heights. I'm your host, Chris Simps. Chapter 4ft on the floor. As authorities were beginning to respond to the robbery at the Bellagio hotel and casino in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, the biker bandit was still making his getaway.


I jump on the interstate, and the adrenaline, man, so I got this mask on. I'm sweaty. Adrenaline's kick in, and my fucking motorcycle mask is steaming up because it's like 20 degrees outside and I can't see out of my visor. And it's not good to not see when you're driving a motorcycle. So I try to lift my thing up. The freezing cold air is blasting my face. So I put my mask down again. The fog kind of dissipated, and I had no fucking idea where I am. I pulled off into a residential area, and I'm not real familiar with Vegas. I kind of just drive off landmarks and gps. I pulled off into this alley. It's like four in the morning. I just want to calm down, gather myself. I want to take this mask off so that I can see and not die, right? I don't want to run into a car. I do that, and this dude comes out of his backyard with like a flashlight. Maybe it's weird to have a motorcycle in your alley? I don't know, but he's walking toward me. He got this flashlight. And I'm just like, oh, hey, man, I'm okay, thank you.


And I kind of wait. I'm just trying to get him to stop, right? And he keeps coming. And I say it again, I'm like, hey, budy, I'm okay. Thank you. I'm just pulled over for a second, catch my breath, and he keeps coming. So I'm just like, fuck this. I just drop my mask, start my bike and go. So I didn't get the mask off. I'm still got the sweaty eyes, forehead sweaty. And I realized that I'm fucking lost. I'm like, I'm on some side street. I can't see anything. I don't know where the fuck I am. And I'm cruising. I'm trying not to have any attention drawn to me until I can see some sort of landmark. Because I'm not going home. I'm going to homeboy's house, Drew's house. There was a moment where I'm at a stoplight. I'm in the left hand turn lane, and on my left is a police officer. I'm just waiting for him to make a move. He's probably waiting for me to make a move. I'm just sitting there like this. Got my turn signal on. Just some dude on a bike, man. You know what I mean?


Like, paying me no attention. 20 fucking degrees. I just felt like I needed to go for a motorcycle ride because that's what one does in Vegas at 05:00 a.m. So he keeps his cool, I keep my cool. He hits his blinker. I got my eye on him in the rear view. Just keeping my head straight, like, trying to keep an eye on him. And as soon as this motherfucker started to hit a left hand turn, I just fucking dropped it in first gear and fucking pinned it. Probably doing 120 wheel coming off the ground and see if I can lit it up. Had to be 3400 yards behind me. I'm grateful there's nobody on the road that night. It wasn't very busy because I probably would have been dead. I was mainly concerned about them getting a bird in the air once they had my location. You cannot run a helicopter, man. So I needed to get as much distance between him and myself that I could.


Lost in the spartan suburbs of Las Vegas. Sun starting to rise and the cops still on his tail. Tony carleo was beginning to panic.


I drive into a dead in. Had to have been a medical complex. So I got this dude behind me, and I just pulled into a parking lot. Generally, parking lots don't have a lot of exits, thank God. I wound my way around this parking lot, and there was another egress. So I found that street, and it was like a fucking beacon from heaven.


And then a symbol of freedom appeared on the horizon.


I seen the stratosphere. Like, I know where that is. I know relevant to where I need to go, where I need to be, based on that stratosphere. So I was never been more happy to see a casino. You know what I mean? It's not even a good looking casino. Shit's crooked. But, yeah, it was a beautiful sight.


The most wanted man in Las Vegas who had just robbed a casino had, in essence, just been saved by a casino.


Once I see this beautiful site, I kind of get my bearings. And one of the roads I took ends up feeding onto Las Vegas Boulevard near, like, mandalay Bay. So I just kept going west. And I think at that point, since I had already had some police interaction, I was not really paying attention to any traffic laws other than stopping at red lights for cross traffic. I've blown through it, pinning it. I needed to get somewhere quick, get off the road, and hide the bike. I pull into drew's house, park my bike in some random ass place, and I call the homie on the phone, dude. He's like, dude, where the fuck are you? There's all these text messages I have. I had looked at my phone since I left, and he's like, I heard the whole thing.


Turns out, when Tony had called Drew from the driveway before he robbed the bellagio, he hadn't hung up the phone, and Drew stayed on the line for what was likely the most exciting phone call of his life.


So this motherfucker heard everything from that phone call, all the way through the robbery, all the way through the subsequent police chase, for like, an hour, hour and a half. This phone call lasted right. Like, I didn't even know I was on the phone with this guy. I get up there, and I had to do a whole bunch of stuff to get rid of the evidence. So I have my firearm, took the slide off, and completely disassembled it. I remember walking around to multiple trash cans in these complexes. I would throw one piece of the gun in one dumpster. I would continue walking and throw another piece in another dumpster. I just threw random pieces in dumpsters sporadically and haphazardly took the bullets of the gun, and I fired them down the sewer drain. I didn't want a kid to find them or anything like that. I tried to mitigate any bad thing I was doing, but I had to get rid of that gun. And I gave him the helmet. But I told him, I don't even want to know what you do with this. Just get rid of it. I probably should have just done it myself.


So I told him, I'm going to take care of him, but I didn't want to give him any of those chips right then and there because I thought he might do some stupid shit and get caught, and then we'd both be fucked. I ultimately needed to get away from there. I left my motorcycle. Just. I didn't want to be there. I just wanted to be somewhere that I was a little more comfortable and.


In my comfort zone in this moment. Tony's comfort zone was at Kara Corenti's place. Kara, meanwhile, had been up all night wondering if Tony was actually going through with his insane scheme.


I was up. I think I was up all night. He got backed into my house and he came into my room and he dumped the backpack full of chips onto my bedroom.


Then she knew that the robbery had happened, right? Like, I don't think she thought it was actually going to go down until I dumped chips on her bed. We ended up counting those, and I was just like, there's a house. There's a house. It was crazy, bro. Like, I didn't mean to steal that high of a dollar amount.


Upon final count, there were over $1.5 million in Bellagio chips, something Kara and Tony had very different reactions to.


That's when I was just like, holy shit, this really happened. This is real. This is not just a fantasy. He's not just being delusional. He really did this. And it hit me. I'm completely involved now. He's pretty much made me an accomplice at this point.


Once you ended up seeing what you actually took, counted the chips and come up with this big ass number, it was kind of wild. And then I just passed out, face planted on this girl's bed and fucking slept for, like, 16 hours.


As the biker bandit slept off the adrenaline dump from his robbery the night before. Surrounded by the $1.5 million in poker chips he stole from the largest casino in the world, the authorities and media began to assemble at the scene of the crime. By the time Lieutenant Clint Nichols arrived at the scene early on the morning of December 14, 2010, the sun was just peeking over Frenchman mountain, and the desert air was still brisk from the night before.


I always got notified on any casino robberies. When you work in Vegas, you don't want casinos being robbed. That just sets a really bad tone and put your job in jeopardy, quite frankly. And anytime you hear the Bellagio, I know that that's going to be on the elected officials minds in the morning. So you just wanted to make sure that all your I's were dotted and your t's were crossed, because you were going to get some questions and some pushback.


The crown jewel of the Las Vegas Strip had been brazenly robbed. And from the moment he first heard Bellagio, Lieutenant Nichols was very aware that the stakes were sky high for him and the rest of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police department.


The Bellagio was a fairly new casino, and it was one of the nicest ones. When we found out the ultimate dollar amount, we knew that the Bellagio was going to be making phone calls. Those phone calls wouldn't be directed at me. They'd be directed toward elected officials and my boss's boss. And so I wanted to make sure I had all the answers. I always did the same things first. I always met with my supervisor on scene. He would have the best information to give me at the time. During that, the security director, he and I were joined at the hip. As we started to walk through the events that occurred. We made our way up to the surveillance room and we started to watch the video of where this guy came in, how he moved through the casino, tried to figure out what he took and how he left.


The Bellagio security footage that Lieutenant Nichols saw in that moment was the same footage that would be released to the media later that day. The same footage that would be played on news programs all over the world for months to come. And the same footage that anyone can still find online today. The camera angle is from the ceiling mounted above the north port Kush share, which is a fancy way of saying the valet entrance. Looking down the long, wide hallway that leads to the partially carpeted floor. In the casino, glowing slot machines are visible before the star of the tape enters center frame. Tony, fully disguised in his motorcycle helmet and black jumpsuit, jogs at a relatively casual pace, like his shoes are a little too big for his feet. A small black pistol can be seen in his right hand. At one point, as he leaves the casino area, he waves the weapon at someone just over his right shoulder, then continues to the exit just below the camera. Yet the most surprising thing about the security footage wasn't what was on the tape at all. It was the fact that it was recorded on actual tape in 2010.


The date and time of the recording are stamped into the image. Tracking and static lines occur throughout the clip. In other words, it looks like a home movie from the 1980s, oceans eleven. This was not for a casino with such a lofty reputation. Their security setup left a lot to be desired. And now it was on full display for the world to see.


It was not uncommon to get bad footage from hotels. Oftentimes they didn't want us to see what was going on in casinos. So, I mean, you got to remember, the prince of Saudi would come and visit, and they don't really want you to have clear video of the stuff that he and his compadres are doing. So it was not that uncommon. I've had robberies in casinos, and you look at the footage and go, this is useless.


While the police are used to working with what they have, others in the casino business couldn't believe their eyes.


I remember I saw the news on tv and it was that video. The first thing I thought was, oh, my God, how embarrassing.


That's Willie Allison, a casino surveillance chief for nearly two decades and the managing director of world game protection, perhaps the foremost casino security consulting agency in the world. A job. Most people don't really think about being a job until a casino is robbed. Of course, there's a corporate mentality to.


Do the very minimum security costs money. It's a very inconvenient expense. It's tough for them to justify putting on extra security staff or getting extra cameras to their accountants until something happens. They don't see it as a business decision to go out and get weapons detection systems, AI systems. They see it as a drain on their profits, but they have to do it. So let's just pick up the state regulations. What's the minimum we need? That's what we'll get.


Not to get too deep into the weeds on the exciting details of the state of Nevada's gaming laws. But as Willie just casually alluded to, casinos must abide by specific security regulations to be fully licensed to operate. In other words, all those cameras you see in the ceilings of casinos these days aren't there because casino management is worried about people stealing their money. Most of them are only there because the state requires it.


The Security is there for the safety of the patrons, the safety of the staff, and, of course, taking care of the money. And in commercial gaming jurisdictions, the state governments get a good chunk of that money, so they have a vested interest, right? They have to be able to tell the people that vote for them or assign them to these positions that, yeah, they're getting their fair share.


Which explains at least some of the pressure Lieutenant Clint Nichols was probably beginning to feel that morning as he watched the grainy Bellagio security footage of the biker bandit escape the casino. Beyond the obvious, most likely a male suspect who rode a motorcycle and wore a black jumpsuit and helmet. Once covered in tape, they had little to no evidence to work with. In other words, whomever this man was, he might just get away with it. And as for any forensic evidence to be discovered on the casino floor, well.


I remember going to the actual table that he took items from first. I do remember some tape being up, and bellagio security personnel were keeping people away from it. But the actual atmosphere of the casino was still up and running, so it was business as usual. I only tell you that because a few years ago, we had another robbery. And long story short, we ended up killing the guy on the floor of the casino, and we had to shut the whole thing down. And, boy, that was a nightmare. I didn't realize how much money casinos make in an hour. And when you shut them down, there is an impact to their bottom line.


The Vegas news media was present even before Lieutenant Nichols arrived on the scene. They were now clamoring for any details on this rumored robbery at Vegas's biggest casino.


I know the media in Vegas. They infamously monitor their police scanners. They were staged outside Bellagio is private property, so they wouldn't let them on property. I think I briefed them not too shortly thereafter. I received the information that I had, and we determined what could and could not be released at that time.


Nichols stepped in front of the mic, ready to drop a bombshell.


Early this morning, at about 03:50 a.m. The Bellagio casino was robbed at gunpoint. The suspect arrived on a motorcycle and parked just outside the north valet. And the suspect was also wearing a full faced motorcycle helmet. He then entered the casino and went directly to a crabs table, where he confronted several patrons with a firearm. He told everyone not to move, and he took approximately $1.5 million worth of casino chips. The suspect then ran back out of the casino following his original route, jumped on his motorcycle, and exited westbound on flamingo at a high rate of speed.


And with Lieutenant Nichols press conference, news of the Bellagio robbery spread like wildfire. This is CNN breaking news.


It's something straight out of Hollywood. A thief is on the run with over a million dollars in Las Vegas casino chips.


You know, a lot of people come to Vegas to push their luck at the gambling table. But it's an entirely different gamble to think you can run into a casino and make out with more than a million bucks in chips. But that's exactly what this guy did.


And that's actually how I first found out about the robbery of the Bellagio back in my Denver apartment in 2010.


Straight out of Hollywood. As thieves.


As a writer, I'd often leave my television on, tuned to CNN as sort of a comforting background. White noise. But when the story of the Bellagio robbery broke, I couldn't look away.


He pulled a gun on the players and dealer at a crafts table.


I closed the laptop and found myself glued to the screen. As a lover of mob movies, namely Scorsese's casino, I was convinced robbing a casino was virtually impossible, yet some dude on a motorcycle had somehow pulled it off.


Tom Fuentes is a former FBI assistant director. He's now a CNN contributor. He joins us now from Washington. Tom, it's pretty extraordinary they have all of this elaborate security at all of these casinos, and you can foil it simply by wearing a motorcycle helmet and walking into the casino.


That's true, John.


I think little did I know at the time. I used to get high with that dude. And that dude Tony also happened to be watching the same news report. Everyone else was around the world at the exact same time.


So I wake up and Drew was blowing my phone up. Text message, dude, you're all over the news. It's crazy. This shit is huge. Call me. Whatever. Like, he was worried about me to know where I was. And C had mentioned that she did a little poking around on the interwebs. The Bellagio robbery was mentioned quite a few times. I started looking around and I'm like, oh, boy. This really escalated much different from the Suncoast, which was not reported. This shit showed up in 32 countries and published in every language known to man. It was probably a bad thing. Like, that much attention is never good. Then you got the whole fucking world looking for you. Definitely the metro police department in Las Vegas.


But the truth was, at least initially, the LVMPD didn't have much to build a case on. No leads and little evidence.


We did our usual crime scene processing, but trying to lift prints and dna off a crap table in Vegas is a waste of time. I believe our initial investigative assumption was that this was probably some drunk guy who was pissed at the Bellagio because he lost money simply because of the way the robbery was conducted, and this was his way of getting payback. First couple of weeks we didn't have much at all. But in order for that robbery to even be fruitful, we knew that at some point he would have to trade those chips in for services. So it was just a matter of time before we knew the chips would be recirculated. Back to the Bellagio.


Tony's robbery was now a national news story, and he was sitting on approximately $1.5 million in stolen Bellagio poker chips. The critical question for him became, what was his next move? Tony couldn't walk into a bank and just cash them in. And then there was an even bigger problem. The types of chips he ended up stealing. As Tony had hurriedly swept them into a bag off the craps table. While waving his pistol around, he'd gotten a wide mix of denominations, from common single dollar chips to $25,000 chips.


The $25,000 chips that the bellagio uses are affectionately called cranberries. They are the color of a cranberry. They're like a pink mauve. The red white blue chips, which were $5,000, are affectionately called flags. Makes sense, right? The bigger chips are used for serious gamblers, whales, very wealthy people who like to fire. And it's just a way to bet large sums of money without having a cumbersome amount of chips on the table. He didn't mean to grab that much money. Didn't want to grab that much money. I was perfectly content with five k and under chips. And out of those dominations, I think ended up being like 380,000 in five k or less. So there would have been about 1.2 million in $25,000 chips.


All of these little details presented a number of new problems for Tony. The first and most immediate one were the cranberry chips themselves. These $25,000 chips weren't just handed out to anyone. Most people didn't even know they existed before this. In fact, only a short list of high rollers who visited the Bellagio had cranberry chips. And thanks to the advent of a new commercially available technology known as RFID, there was a strong possibility these chips could be physically traced.


RFID stands for radio frequency identification. That is different than a GPS tracking chip. The casinos use RFID to, at the very least, authenticate chips because there been some scams. People taking a chip, painting their own chips, get one or two through here and there. That's free money. The Bellagio was 18 or 19 years old when this crime occurred. So I didn't think that they had this new GPS type of technology, but I did think they had RFID. And I was curious, so I ended up cutting one of the 25k chips open. I seen a little gold square chip in the middle of it, and I. Not that sharp, but I have to assume that that wasn't strong enough or powerful enough, or have a power source to transmit a signal to where I could get located via gps.


Considering law enforcement hadn't already kicked Tony's door in, this was a safe assumption. But after the robbery, Las Vegas was on high alert. And trying to cash in the high profile chips without at least being questioned would be impossible.


So the 25 ks are always almost impossible to cash out unless they know who you are. You definitely always have to show players card or be well known by the casino.


But this was over a million dollars in what he had stolen. He pushed that problem aside for now and concentrate on cashing out the smaller denomination chips.


The $5,000 chips. There's so many of them in circulation, and so many people have them because it's not an insane amount of money that they just let anybody cash them.


Tony had another big problem. One that he actually built into his master plan, but one that also carried a large degree of risk. Outside of their respective casinos. Poker chips aren't currency. You can't exactly buy a new car with them or even buy groceries. Which meant, to actually get the money he'd stolen, Tony would have to return to the Bellagio. The casino was now crawling with cops and security. He would need to blend in and try to cash out the nearly $400,000 in lower denomination chips. And at that point, Tony didn't really have any other choice.


Like, if they know it's me, they're gonna fucking tackle me. Like, the second I walk in. I had Kara take me to go pick up my car and went home, washed my ass, got in the shower, and I couldn't wait to go back to the Bellagio and start cashing these chips.


In less than 24 hours after robbing it, Tony Carleo would return to the Bellagio. This time disguised as just another hopeful gambler.


I was nervous as hell, but confident at the same time. I didn't think they had any fucking clue who I was. But it was still, like, hella weird to walk in there. I got stolen property in my pocket. And it was like a really surreal, profound moment just walking in there. It was like kind of slow motion. You just kind of have these illusions and visions that you've created in your mind of, well, if the shit's going to hit the fan, what's it going to look like. And then I walked in, and I love the smell of the blagio. And I remember as soon as that hit me and I didn't get tackled, I was like, oh, okay, well, here we go.


Tony's plan would be to buy into a poker game for a few thousand dollars. He would play with the chips in front of him and then subtly add some of the stolen chips to his stack. So to a casual observer, he looked like any other gambler in a casino. After playing for a certain amount of time, win or lose, Tony would cash out this stack of chips, now seeded with stolen chips, and make a tidy profit. This would be a slow and steady way to turn his stolen chips into real money. And it was virtually untraceable, just as long as he didn't get greedy.


So after the first day, I leave with ten extra thousand dollars that I came with. That's a pretty good day, man. I was just extremely happy that it was something that I could do now.


Emboldened that he could execute his plan without suspicion, Tony began to return to the bellagio every day and execute the same basic strategy, gamble. Win some, lose some, and cash out with more than he came in with. And over that first week, Tony often found that his robbery was the topic of casual conversation on the casino floor.


I would overhear or mildly participate in conversations, for instance, at the craps table that I robbed. They're talking about it. Some of them were probably there that night. Half the people that I heard talking about it said, that was a genius, and he's going to get away with it. And then the other half said, dude's fucking idiot, and he's going to get caught in a week. I just nodded. I didn't really have anything to add to the conversation, but it was interesting to hear it. It stroked my ego a little bit, knowing that I'm that guy and nobody knows.


And the more Tony gambled, the more he appeared to those working at the casino to be another high roller who should receive special attention and ultimately, free perks to ensure they keep gambling. Soon, Tony would have his own high roller suite at the Bellagio, the casino he had robbed free of charge. The man who had beaten the house would now be living inside that same house, which is exactly the wrong thing for a gambler like Tony to do when he's ahead.


I didn't really need a room. What got me to request this host, just an absolutely beautiful female, and I asked the dealer, who is that? She's like, oh, that's a host. I was like, oh, I need a host. I'm gambling I don't have one. And I need one. And she's really hot, so let's get her over here. But I just got a little greedy and got ahead of myself.


That's next time on the high Roller heist. This episode of the High Roller Heist was created and produced by Eli Chorus and Joshua Schaefer of Pegalo Pictures and executive produced by Jason Hoke of Wavelength, written by Eli Chorus, edited by Joshua Schaefer, hosted and co produced by me, Chris Sims, co produced with interviews recorded by Nicholas Sonakis, theme music and score by Joshua Cleave, with sound design and sound mixing by Craig Plackey and host narration recorded by David Custard at CCM Studios in Denver, Colorado. A special thanks to the Denver Chop house and Brewery. Thanks again for listening. And don't forget, get to follow or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, and leave a review.