Vegas Judge's Son Arrested in $1.5M Bellagio Heist

Published February 3, 2011

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- The security footage of the man in a motorcycle helmet and a gun, dashing into a posh Las Vegas Strip casino and making off with $1.5 million in chips, went viral on the Internet. Now, after nearly two months, police believe they have their man - a former real estate broker who went bankrupt in 2009 and is related to a Sin City judge.

Anthony M. Carleo, 29, was arrested early Thursday after police accused him of being the bandit who grabbed the chips in the Dec. 14 brazen heist at the Bellagio hotel-casino. Police had said they believed the same man robbed the Suncoast casino in northwest Las Vegas early Dec. 8.

"It goes without saying that as a father, I am devastated and heartbroken to see my son arrested under these circumstances, as is the rest of his family," Las Vegas Municipal Court Judge George Assad said in a statement released through a publicist.

Assad said that as a working judge, he couldn't comment about "any pending legal matter as it relates to anyone, including my son."

"I can say that as a prosecutor and a judge, I have always felt people who break the law need to be held accountable," he said.

Carleo was arrested at the Bellagio as part of an undercover police investigation, a person familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press. The person declined to be named because he was not authorized to publicly provide details about the case.

Police spokesman Bill Cassell refused to give further details on the arrest besides saying it happened in Las Vegas.

It was not immediately clear whether Carleo had a lawyer.

Court records showed Carleo filed for bankruptcy in Colorado in May 2009, listing among his personal belongings a .40-caliber Taurus pistol.

The bankruptcy filing said Carleo received at least $19,000 from his father over a three year period, but owed nearly $188,000 in various debts. The case was closed seven months later, and a lawyer from the firm that represented him then said Thursday that they are not representing him now.

Voting records in 2010 showed that Carleo lived at the same address with as his father in Las Vegas.

Jail records showed Carleo in custody under another name, Anthony M. Assad. The name was also used in Carleo's bankruptcy filing.

Bail was set at $15,000 for Carleo on felony armed robbery and burglary charges. Court spokeswoman Mary Ann Price said he would make an initial appearance in court Monday.

Carleo will not be required to appear when a judge reviews the charges on Friday, Price said.

Police said Carleo was also suspected of trafficking a controlled substance, but booking records did not reflect that charge.

Stealing $1.5 million in chips isn't like stealing $1.5 million, experts and police pointed out at the time of the robbery. Chips are unique to casino properties and are generally not interchangeable, although state regulations let casino companies redeem sister properties' chips with some restrictions.

After the heist, Bellagio announced plans to discontinue the casino's $25,000 chips in April, setting a deadline for the thief to try to use them. Police did not say Thursday whether Carleo tried to redeem the chips - which ranged from $100 to $25,000 - before he was arrested.

Bellagio officials wouldn't say whether MGM Resorts International properties, which include the posh hotel-casino on the Strip known for its fountains, are among Las Vegas casinos that embed radio frequency devices inside the tokens.

Police say it took less than three minutes for the robber to pull off the heist.

He entered a casino entrance from Flamingo Road, strode fewer than 500 feet to a craps table, brandished the handgun at the 10 to 12 patrons and three or four dealers with chips piled on the green felt, scooped up the loot and ran.

Casino security officers didn't confront the robber, but a ceiling security video camera followed his path out the door. Police say a 911 call was placed to police while the man was still in the casino.

He was gone by the time police arrived.

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Associated Press writer Ken Ritter contributed to this report.

Written by <P class="ap-story-p">By OSKAR GARCIA - Associated Press</P>

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