When you watch a casino heist in the movies, the criminals are usually going down guns-a-blazing. But in the real world, casino heists often involve inside jobs due to corrupt employees.
One of the most famous examples occurred in 1993 when armored truck driver Heather Tallchief drove away from Vegas’ Circus Circus with $2.5 million in cash. She later turned herself in after 12 years on the run, while her accomplice Roberto Solis remains a fugitive to this day.
1. The MIT Blackjack Team
A team from MIT dominated the world of casino card counting in the ’90s. They used a simple, yet effective method of keeping track of cards that were dealt. This allowed them to predict when the dealer would hit on a certain number. The result was a significant bankroll that they could use to beat the casinos.
The heists they pulled off were spectacular. They were even featured in the book 21 and a movie of the same name.
But despite their success, they weren’t able to maintain their millionaire lifestyle for long. Most members were still pursuing degrees that required serious academic study. This meant that they couldn’t afford to party all the time. Moreover, they had to be careful not to get caught.
2. The Biker Bandit
A heist of any type makes headlines, but a casino robbery in the heart of Vegas is especially dramatic. In 2010, a man wearing a motorcycle helmet stormed the Bellagio poker cage and demanded $1.5 million worth of chips. He stuffed the chips into a fanny pack, raced out the front doors and zipped off on his motorcycle.
The robber, later identified as Anthony Carleo, had pulled a similar stunt at the Suncoast hotel and casino just five days earlier. He walked in wearing a motorcycle helmet, displayed a gun and grabbed almost $19,000 from the gambling floor before police arrived.
Carleo bragged about the heists on the Internet, prompting Metro police to track him down. He’s serving between nine and 27 years in prison.
3. The Soboba Casino Robbery
The Soboba Casino Heist has been described as one of the most brazen casino heists in history. It happened in California in 2007. Surveillance technician Rolando Ramos was able to take advantage of his technical know-how and use the knowledge he had gained to steal a massive wad of cash from Soboba Casino. He did so by holding employees hostage and pointing a gun at them (although he later admitted that it was a BB gun).
The story behind this heist is quite interesting. Heather Tallchief was a 21-year-old woman who worked for Loomis and was responsible for transporting money to fill casino ATMs. She was able to pull off this heist without any camera breaches or other shady methods thanks to her friend and accomplice Roberto Solis. Solis was a man with a long criminal record who had gotten out of prison for writing poetry and who owned an apartment filled with goat heads, tarot cards, and crystals.
4. The Circus Circus Robbery
On October 1, 1993, armored car driver Heather Tallchief pulled up to the Circus Circus casino in Las Vegas with an armored truck packed to the brim with $2.5 million. Her task was to fill up the casino’s ATM machines, but instead she jumped out and drove off.
She and her co-worker were supposed to wait until their boss returned from their first stop, but she didn’t. Tallchief accelerated to her next location, which was a warehouse she and Solis had rented a few blocks away.
It’s not often we see criminals in the movies let off scot-free and allowed to keep their mountains of cash, but that’s what happened to this casino robbery. The Biker Bandit, who went by the name Anthony Carleo, has served 9 to 27 years in prison for this and several other heists. His co-conspirator, Solis, remains a fugitive to this day.