A former craps dealer of Bellagio, a luxury resort and casino in Las Vegas, and two of his friends were all sentenced last Tuesday to a period of at least four years in Nevada state prison. Their offense was that they used phantom "hop" bets to cheat the Bellagio casino and were able to win over $1 million.
Mark William Branco, age 43, the former craps dealer, and his two accomplices Anthony Grant Granito and Jeffrey D. Martin all expressed their apologies individually. All of them asked for probation before a Clark County District Court judge, who ordered each one of them to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution.
Granito, age 49, is Branco's friend, while Martin, age 39, is a former pro baseball player.
The verdict brought Branco to tears, "I'm truly sorry for what I've done. I'll do whatever it takes to make it right."
Granito, who suffered from a heart attack and underwent triple bypass surgery after being charged in the case said, "I've disgraced my family. I've disgraced myself."
Martin said, "Family should always be the priority. I let money be the priority."
Judge Valerie Adair stated that according to a casino official who testified that the three men gathered 76 times at the craps table, with which the craps scheme went on for over two years, they must have assumed that they will certainly go to prison if ever they got caught.
The judge sentenced Branco to 4 to 10 years in prison. Granito and Martin each were sentenced to 4 years up to 8 years and 4 months. All three are responsible for a total of $1.05 million in restitution.
All three have actually pleaded guilty last year to 2 crimes - one count of theft and another on cheating at gambling.
In July 2014, Branco and another Bellagio co-worker named James Russell Cooper Jr. were arrested and immediately fired by the Bellagio management after their scheme at the craps table was discovered.
Cooper, age 44, pleaded guilty to a lesser theft charge. He testified before a grand jury, giving what prosecutor Jay Raman dubbed as a vital insider's perspective. Cooper is facing 1 up to 5 years in prison and will be sentenced at a later date this year.
Prosecutor Raman said that the four conspirators hatched the scheme at a nearby pizza restaurant prior to carrying out the dirty deed in August 2012.
Whenever Branco or Cooper, or both of them were dealing at the craps table, Granito and Martin would come over and mumble confusing bets right before the roll of the dice. No matter what the outcome was, they won.
Raman stated, "When the circumstances were just right, they would make high-stakes ‘hop' bets. No money. No chips."
There was also a time when the false results made Granito and Martin the top winners at the craps table in the entire posh Bellagio casino.
Raman further added, "They stole a ton of money, the kind of money that the word ‘jackpot' usually follows."
Though Martin lost quite a lot in the slot machine games, they bought new cars and stuffed their bank accounts.
The fraud-control executive at the MGM Resorts International which owns Bellagio, Sharon Tibbits, relayed to the judge on Tuesday that it took thousands of hours for their investigators to put together all the defendants' bets, winnings and losses.
One day back in July 2014, it was found out that Granito won an amount of $13,200 on the first roll of the dice, and then he stayed for a total of 229 more rolls before leaving the table. Tibbits stated that on valid bets he lost a total of $64,000, but on fraudulent bets he won almost $150,000! His net wins reached $85,000.
Tibbits urged the judge to impose harsh sentences on the offenders, firmly saying, "It was not need. It was 100 percent greed. Please don't let crime pay."