A national Native American gaming commission warned this week that a scam in Nevada and other states has started to affect tribal casinos.
The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) sent a note to tribal gaming operators, including Florida casinos, alerting them to imposters who trick employees, scamming casinos out of cash. One tribal location in Colorado was taken for $500,000, according to news reports.
Efforts to reach Florida casino operator representatives from the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes were unsuccessful.
How the scam worked at other casinos
The NIGC notice comes after a July 7 warning issued by the Nevada Gaming Control Board to casinos in the state to be aware of the con. According to reports, the Circa Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas was bilked out of $1.17 million. In June, a man claiming to be a Circa owner convinced a casino cage employee to distribute several payments totaling that amount for fire-safety equipment.
“There have been multiple instances of scams at commercial and tribal gaming operations with losses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The NIGC has been made aware of several failed attempts as well,” the agency said in a press release warning tribes.
There have been no verified reports of fraud at any of the seven Native American casinos in Florida.
Details of the alleged scams
According to the NIGC, an example of the scam went like this:
“Someone impersonating a tribal official called the victim working in the vault, stating that a payment must be made immediately to ensure that a vital shipment of equipment is made. The victim was told to remove a specific amount of cash (i.e., $100,000, or more in some instances) from the vault. The victim was then directed to use their personal cell phone to remain on the line with the scammer. The victim was directed to drive, while on the phone, to a location(s) where the money was to be deposited into a Bitcoin deposit kiosk (a victim may be directed to use multiple Bitcoin kiosks within the area). The victim was then instructed to send the QR code scanned at the Bitcoin deposit kiosks,” the news release said.
The advisory places top priority on training staff working in gaming operations, such as cage, vault or accounting staff, that have direct access to cash assets or bank accounts on what to do in the event of such a call or other communication.
Erik Gutierrez, 23, was charged with theft of more than $100,000 in the Circa incident, according to a police report.
A cage supervisor, who said she received a phone call from a person who claimed to be the hotel’s owner, paid the scammer in four installments at different off-site locations. The employee believed she was coordinating payments with the owner’s attorney, according to the report.
Law enforcement on high alert
The NIGC urges tribes to direct staff members who receive these types of calls to immediately alert co-workers, security or law enforcement. Local law authorities, the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service are to be contacted as well, according the advisory.
The last big con involving Florida casinos occurred more than 10 years ago. In February 2020, four couples pleaded guilty to a scam that ripped off $5.2 million from Miccosukee Casino and Resort’s gambling video games from 2011 to 2015. Over nearly 4 ½ years, the group generated false credit vouchers from the devices that were cashed in at the casino’s cages.