Pair Accused Of Defrauding Casinos Of $1.4 Million

Feds have arrested Pennsylvania men — one of them a former police officer — who stand accused of exploiting a flaw in slot machine software that caused false double jackpots to show up. After running up as much as $1.4 million in winnings around the world, they were tracked down by authorities.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports one of the gamblers faces 650 felony counts, including criminal conspiracy and “computer trespassing.”

The men discovered a glitch that caused certain machines to incorrectly show that huge payouts were in order following a pattern of button presses. The story says a third guy joined in the scheme, and the participants stashed money away in safety deposit boxes. One of the men is expected to testify against the others in return for probation.

Swissvale man accused in casino thefts arrested by federal agents [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via Slashdot]

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  1. Xyjar says:

    Working at a bank I hear this a lot, allow me to correct it.

    “stashed money away in safety deposit boxes”

    SAFE deposit boxes.

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    Who says the house always wins?

  3. MikeF74 says:

    I’d hardly call noticing and using a software glitch to your advantage “computer trespassing”. I love it when they take new laws, find a loophole in the wording, and use it against anyone they can. Why aren’t they chard with “legislative trespassing”?

    Fraud, yes. Computer Trespassing, give me a break.

    • JoeTheDragon says:

      But I hear they had In side info on a glitch and it need a mode to be set that is not used that much, Now in the past I saw a lot more games with double up truned on. Now if this a old bug that just blows to a japtop now days and is not seen that much as double up is off now days on most games then they should not go to jail but I don’t think they should get all that cash just give them the real non buged pay out and fix the bug.

      • GrandizerGo says:

        Hunh?
        My head hurts trying to parse your thoughts…

        • Platypi {Redacted} says:

          I thought it was just me, my eyes already hurt this morning. This may shift it into a full blown migraine. Perhaps I should read it a couple of more times so I can go home and nap.

      • Blueskylaw says:

        Using bath salts much?

      • aloria says:

        I hear they had inside info on a glitch– it needed a mode (“double up”) to be set that is not used that much. In the past I saw a lot more games with “double up” turned on, it’s not seen that much anymore. “Double up” is off nowadays on most games. If this is as old bug then they should not go to jail. I don’t think they should get all that cash; just give them the real, non bugged payout and fix the bug.

        FTFY

    • Nogard13 says:

      I agree. Noticing a pattern and using it to your advantage isn’t cheating. Unless these gentlemen changed the computer program in any way, or if they “hacked” into a computer in order to figure out the pattern, then I can see them being guilty of breaking the law. However, if all they did was press random buttons until they figured it out then that isn’t illegal.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        Technically card counting is “noticing a pattern” and using it to your advantage. IT isn’t illegal but it will get you kicked out.

        • TheWillow says:

          but you get to keep all the money leading up to the point where you get kicked out.

          • Griking says:

            I think that depends on the casino. I’ve heard of some people getting thrown out on their asses with none of their winnings.

            • wild7s says:

              Depends on the state. In Nevada card counting is illegal and in New Jersey it’s not. To make up for that, New Jersey casinos uses multiple decks, which defeats the whole point of card counting. [Knowing if the odds of pulling a favorable card are greater than normal, so you bet high and hit big before returning to a minimal betting amount and repeating the cycle.]

        • nonsane says:

          card counting with a computer: Illegal
          card counting on your own: not illegal.

    • Megalomania says:

      The phrase “false double jackpot” really begs the question of whether a jackpot CAN be false. The post says that machines “show[ed] that huge payouts were in order following a pattern of button presses”, which is rather the entire point of slot machines; you press buttons, and they tell you how much you won (often, $0).

      Unless they were in some way responsible for this ‘glitch’ existing, the charges are ludicrous.

      • jesusofcool says:

        I agree. Was it dishonest and unethical? Yes. But I’m not really sure if it is illegal?
        It’s not their fault a loophole existed that they took advantage of. If someone went to prison every time they profited from some sort of loophole, our prisons would be full.

    • YokoOhNo says:

      I’m actually surprised they weren’t charged with “making terroristic threats”.

    • Griking says:

      They can charge them with anything they want, they’ll still have to be convicted of the charge though.

  4. exoxe says:

    I never understood casinos. So you have to act dump in order for everything to be okay, but if you start counting cards or discovering “patterns” (aka software glitches) you’re breaking the law?

    • VOIDMunashii says:

      Yes, the house is allowed to take advantage of you, you are NOT allowed to turn the tables.

      • Buckus says:

        Hey! It’s just like banking/mortgages! The house (bank) is allowed to take advantage of you (NSF fees, overdraft fees, Days-that-end-in-“y” fees) but if you decided to take advantage of a contract (mortgage default) all of a sudden you’re persecuted by everyone from your clergy to your grandma.

      • NeverLetMeDown says:

        The rules of the game are clear.

        The law (in both NJ and NV) is also clear: a casino may refuse to provide service to a customer. It’s pretty much like any business in that respect, bound only by the rules around protected classes (i.e. can’t refuse to serve black people).

    • Bsamm09 says:

      I don’t believe counting cards is illegal.

    • sirwired says:

      Actually, card counting is not illegal. You won’t get arrested for it, and they can’t/won’t sue you. They can, and do, decide they don’t actually want you playing there.

    • exoxe says:

      Alright, good to know. Headed out to Vegas next month for the first time!

    • shufflemoomin says:

      Ah, the irony of misspelling ‘dumb’.

  5. Judah says:

    So when mutli-billion casino corporations conspire to defraud average people out of millions it isn’t a crime, but when three average guys conspire to defraud those same casinos out of one million *without breaking the rules of the casinos* it is a crime.

    What a world.

  6. Slave For Turtles says:

    I find myself lacking in pity for the casinos.

  7. pythonspam says:

    “On an episode aired June 8 and 11, 1984, a self-described unemployed ice cream truck driver named Michael Larson made it onto [Press Your Luck]. Watching the show at home and with the use of stop-motion on a VCR, Larson discovered that the presumed random patterns of the game board were not random and was able to memorize the sequences to help him stop the board where and when he wanted.”
    “Although CBS investigated Larson, they determined that figuring out the patterns was not cheating and let him keep his winnings. The board was reprogrammed for more (and more complicated) patterns to prevent another player from being able to memorize the board like Larson had.”

    Back in the day, they would have just absorbed the loss and fixed the glitch.

    • noahproblem1 says:

      In Vegas, “back in the day”, they wouldn’t have fixed the glitch – they would have “fixed” the player, or accurately, “affixed” a pair of concrete shoes to the player and escorted him to the bottom of Lake Mead.

      • stevied says:

        The concrete shoes and Lake Mead are just rumours.

        There is plenty of available desert so close by.

        • lucky13 says:

          And have you priced concrete lately? Even the casinos can’t afford that anymore!

        • jumpycore says:

          they find bodies in lake mead all of the time actually. for example: they found a friend of my brothers at lake mead in december.

    • pythonspam says:

      Unless the players actually did something to the machines (i.e. had worked for International Game Technology or was in collusion with someone who was), this is not fraud or was using cheating devices (i.e. light wands or electroshockers), this is not computer trespassing.

    • stevejust says:

      Thanks Pythospam for posting this, because it was precisely the first thing I thought of when I read about these slot machine guys.

      I’ve tried to find a copy of the criminal complaint or indictment, because I’ve read a couple of articles now, and they all say no one actually knows how these guys figured out the glitch, but that someone might buy a machine and mess with it to try to figure glitches like this out.

      I’m having a really hard time figuring out where 650 criminal counts can come from in all of this.

  8. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Why, exactly, is it illegal to play a casino machine and win? Unless they themselves put the exploit in the machine, it should not be illegal to game it.

    • lucky13 says:

      This doesn’t sound like it should be any more illegal than card counting but there’s not really enough info to understand the details – unless they actually hacked into or introduced the “glitch” into the machines, the computer trespassing charges may be hard to prove.

      The lighter answer to your question is: winning large sums of money has always been frowned on (by casinos who would certainly make it illegal if they could) and if you can do it repeatedly and consistently (especially by recognizing patterns, counting cards or exploiting weaknesses in staff or equipment) then it really makes them unhappy. Casinos only want just enough small winners to stimulate everyone into betting more – the more you bet, the more they win.

    • SJActress says:

      Precisely. I found a pattern while playing Deuces Wild Video Poker. If I keep the DEUCES, I have an excellent chance of winning something…perhaps I should be prosecuted?

  9. sirwired says:

    It’s too early to come to conclusions. The article makes no mention of how the flaw was found. If the flaw was discovered by somebody with access to the code, or, even worse, intentionally put there, then this was highly illegal by all involved.

    If this was spotted by somebody with a keen sense of observation and then spread around, then there is no case.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      But if they did not cause the glitch, they should not be legally procesuted for exploiting it.

      • sirwired says:

        If the glitch was put there intentionally, you can be prosecuted for exploiting it. This happens with insider trading investigations all the time.

  10. cytoman says:

    Will someone please post that sequence of button pushes so we can all share?

  11. sonneillon says:

    Here is a reason where if you find something like this to keep your mouth shut. If only one person did it. With a high priced defense team funded from his ill gotten lucre he could beat the charges. Since there is someone testifying against him his chances are shot to hell.

  12. Grungo says:

    Sounds like a fascinating case. Hope these guys hire a good lawyer.

  13. A.Mercer says:

    I am of the mind that as long as they did not tamper with the machine and they were only exploiting a delivered flaw in the machine then they are legal. If I were on the jury I would not vote to convict unless the prosecution could demonstrate how these guys tampered with the machine.

    • kujospam says:

      If the only buttons they presses were in the front I would agree. But if there was some buttons on the back or something. Or like a button on the side of the machine that said maintenance mode. Then that would be different. No clue, I still need to go to vegas. Or at least some cheep casino.

  14. intense_jack says:

    The software developer should be brought up on trial for Fraud if they didn’t disclose this ‘glitch’ or exploit to the Casinos or gaming comissions. They should have told their customers about the problem and had them either sign off on it and train their staff to watch for it, or done any number of things.
    These guys making millions off the exploit could be guilty of some crime, I suppose (even if they had some insider knowledge) but the software developer for the slot machines is 10 times more guilty and responsible if you ask me. They have an ethical obligation to fix the glitch and warn their customers. They knew about a possible exploit and rather than fix it they decided it was secure enough if they simply didn’t tell anyone.

  15. truthandjustice says:

    It’s perfectly legal for banksters, Wall Street, Casinos, (substitute your own here), etc. to methodically and perpetually EXPLOIT the vulnerabilities of John and Susan Doe’s, but NOT the other way around.

    That’s messed up BIG TIME! Justice is now a charade.

    • econobiker says:

      Algorithms for buy/sell points are legal if you are a business. If you are a person, you go to jail…

  16. Hoss says:

    This is nonsense! Slot machines are remotely controlled by the casino to achieve certain effects. Want to shampoo the carpet in the west end of the casino… change the payout ratio on the slots so people avoid them . Manipulation of results is done all the time by casinos, why isn’t it fair if people outsmart the system?

    Same with card counting…

  17. captadam says:

    Oh, screw the casinos. It’s not like the individuals in question reprogrammed these machines.

  18. anarkie says:

    The secret code is up, up, down, down, left, right…..

  19. Azzizzi says:

    Several people are saying this is okay and not illegal? If you knew of a soda machine that had a glitch where you could press a series of buttons and get free sodas all day, you wouldn’t think this would be illegal either?

    • Tiercelet says:

      Nope. Not at all. It’s accepting an offer that the owner of the machine made without realizing the full implications.

      If it’s illegal to be the side that makes money on a zero-sum deal that both participants willingly entered into, then you’ve outlawed basically any act of capitalism between consenting adults. It’s different if one side actually defrauded the other, gave false assurances, or the like, but if you offer me a stupid deal and I take it, whose fault is that?

    • humphrmi says:

      If the soda machine randomly either gave out free sodas or no sodas (and kept your money), then yes.

    • captadam says:

      A soda machine is not a device based on chance. The offer is that you put your money in, hit the button, and get a soda EVERY TIME. You don’t sometimes get nothing. You don’t sometimes end up with 1,000 sodas falling out. The comparison isn’t valid.

    • Erik Hughes says:

      If the point of that soda machine were that it would spit out a random number of cans of soda based only on you hitting buttons, then yes – it’s perfectly ok.

  20. SG-Cleve says:

    These machines can be programmed to be “looser” or “tighter” (more or less likely to win money).

    They are not truly random, the results are determined by a computer program, and I refuse to play.

  21. Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

    Trial was canceled:
    http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/washnews/01-04-2011-casino-theft-trial-canceled

    “But, by day’s end, one of the men was en route to Las Vegas to face federal charges, and the other man pleaded guilty to his role in the Meadows plan.”

  22. YokoOhNo says:

    The politicians have to protect their guilty, bribe-paying casino cohort.

  23. Ben says:

    For a second I thought the headline said “Phil Accused Of Defrauding Casinos Of $1.4 Million.”

  24. Outrun1986 says:

    Man if I found something like this first of all I wouldn’t tell anyone, second of all I wouldn’t exploit it for millions I would win a couple hundred or maybe thousands and leave, and be thankful that I got what I got so no one would become suspicious.

    But I do not take pity on the casino, provided the players were not hacking the machine or altering the software there is nothing wrong here. I refuse to play at casino’s. If there is a glitch in the software or whatever then it is up to the programmer or the slot machine manufacturer to notify the casino and take appropriate action such as removing the machines until they are fixed.

  25. evilpete says:

    By LAW electronic slot machines *MUST* act just like old fashion mechanical ones ( even if you pull the plug while the wheels are still spinning ).

    Thus to convict these people the casino must admit that the slot machines were not complaint with the laws… This will cost the casino more then the $1.4 mil

    • evilpete says:

      Also it used to be legal to “jiggle” etc. the original old fashion mechanical slot slot machines ( case law ).

      Thus these people may have a footing to say what they did was legal …

  26. JohnDeere says:

    glitch or feature!!!!!!

  27. human_shield says:

    I so doubt this was a glitch. More likely the machine was programmed to pay out in patterns so the casino makes more than it pays out. These people figured out the pattern. That should NOT be a crime.

  28. thesalad says:

    I”m no lawyer, but i don’t see where trespassing occured
    They weren’t Trespassing because as I see it, they didn’t “enter” any unauthorized area, they did not attempt to break / crack a password, or open the machines.

    They did commit fraud though, they stated that they had won the payout even though they knew they had not (button pressing to set off the alarm / nofication). And they accepted the money for something. The court will need to prove that they knew it.. (If they did it 650 times, they knew it).

    • thesalad says:

      Ohh.. I read the article and it looks like they asked employees to manipulate the software that they did not have access to in order to trip this mixup.. Trespassing it is.

  29. supersarah says:

    I don’t understand how this is a crime

  30. The Horror... says:

    If the lottery is simply a tax on the stupid, casinos sole purpose is for losers (literally) to piss their money away. You’re more likely to find a wall clock in the casino than win anything in the long run.

  31. maynurd says:

    How is this a crime? They didn’t cause the glitch in the michines, only took advantage of it.

  32. StevePierce says:

    It’s only a secret if you tell no one.

  33. stegosaurus1 says:

    “Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start”

    Didn’t have a clue what this was but, thanks to Mr. Google, I now do.

  34. jcargill says:

    Did the casinos even notice such a small amount missing? They must be raking in 1.4 million just before breakfast on a weekday.

  35. Bang Uchiha says:

    Hope the gamblers win! :D