Three Men Charged With Exploiting Software Glitch To Make Slot Machine Pay Double; Scheme Netted $430,000
Washington County District Attorney Steven Toprani called it the largest heist in the three-year history of casino gambling in Pennsylvania and one of the largest thefts from a single machine in U.S. history.
A grand jury called it conspiracy, receiving stolen property, computer trespassing, lying to investigators and more, and police and gaming officials were investigating to determine if it had spilled over into West Virginia.
One of the defendants seemed unconcerned, telling a judge he had $400,000 cash to bail himself and one of his co-defendants out of jail, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Andre Michael Nestor, Kerry Laverde and Patrick Loushil were charged with 367 felonies yesterday in what authorities described as an elaborate scheme in which Nestor posed as a high-roller, Laverde posed as his bodyguard and Loushil distracted casino employees.
They were not immediately able to post bail, which was set at a combined total of $500,000, about $70,000 more than the amount police said vanished from the casino.
Laverde, a police officer who once lived in Las Vegas, flashed his badge at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino to build Nestor’s reputation as a man with big money. But Nestor had been jobless and living on Social Security disability income for 15 years, the Post-Gazette reported.
Regardless, Nestor told the judge at his arraignment that he was flush with cash.
Working together, the three men initially conned the casino into letting Nestor spin for double stakes. Aware of the machine’s software programming, Nestor then engaged in “a complex series of button presses and screen changes to cause the slot machine to have an error in its programming. This resulted in the machine displaying a false jackpot,” according to the indictment.
During the next two months, the men exploited the casino’s confidence and the software vulnerability to steal $429,985 from the machine, authorities said.
Police became wise to the scheme in August and set up a sting, after a state Gaming Control Board agent noticed the unusual activity associated with the machine. Nestor caused this machine to produce four jackpots of more than $20,000 each on Aug. 26 alone, authorities said.
His highest jackpot during the two-month, 15-visit string to the casino was $40,550 in July. Undercover police staked out the machine and observed Nestor produce a fraudulent jackpot Aug. 31.
He left the casino in “haste” after trying to collect, when an employee told him there would be a delay in awarding the payout until the machine’s programming could be checked.
Toprani empaneled a secret grand jury, and the indictment was unsealed yesterday.
Read an early report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.