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Land Casino Scam Revealed in USA

By: Shirley Spicer, Tuesday February 15th 2011
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Usually online gambling sites are the subject of allegations of cheating and fraud. But the FBI has just released the details of a scandal that has been going on in several land casinos in the United States and Canada. The cheating resulted in accumulation of illegal wealth of over $7 million. Special Agent Peter Casey, one of several FBI case agents who worked the investigation, explained how the scam was worked.

The land casino scam makes for a perfect Hollywood movie script. It was started by Van Thu Tran and her husband way back in 2002 when they were dealers at an Indian tribal casino in San Diego. The modus operandi was simple in conception. It involved a false shuffle that created a "slug", which is a group of cards whose order does not change when the rest of the cards are shuffled. When the slug comes into play, those in the know can predict the subsequent cards and therefore can wager accordingly. It started with the Asian card game Pai Gow poker at that San Diego casino and then as confidence grew it moved first to other games and then to other casinos. By 2007, 47 members of Tran's extended family and friend circle were known to be carrying out this racket in 29 casinos.

The operation at an individual table began with the dealer making a false shuffle in a manner that evaded detection by the security cameras and pit bosses. This created a slug as described earlier. When the slug came into play signals were given to the accomplices to come and bet at the table. At the tables the accomplices were given simple signals for when to bet and when to stand by a person who knew the sequence of the cards in the slug. Casey explained that one finger on a cigarette might mean bet, two fingers might mean stand pat. He said, "It was almost like a catcher giving signs to the pitcher in baseball." Over time the sophistication of the operation increased. The slug pattern was conveyed to someone who entered it into a computer and then gave signals from a distant location to make detection more difficult.

By 2004 the casino operators sensed that were being ripped off but were unable to uncover the mechanics of the operation. Therefore they called in the authorities. The investigation included surveillance, wiretaps and an undercover operator posing as a crooked dealer. It was a collaborative effort between the Internal Revenue Service investigators, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, the California Department of Justice, and the Ontario Provincial Police. When the gang was rounded up in 2007, it was found that Tran and her family had splurged with the proceeds, buying properties in the US and Vietnam, luxury cars and jewelry

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