I hope you enjoyed part one about the biggest casino heists in history.
Here are two more tales of casino larceny.
This time, I’ll be talking about the Circus Circus in Las Vegas and the Ritz Casino in London.
Both these robberies are right out of a movie plot.
The Circus Circus is a story of a disappearing armored truck and a toxic love.
The Ritz Casino is what happens when you try to use technology to cheat.
Tell your kids.
It’s that time again.
Get cozy, pour a glass of wine, and silence your phone.
Circus Circus, 2.95 – 3.1 Million USD
On a sunny morning in October 1993, Heather Tallchief’s life would change forever. The 21 year old had decided to move from her home in San Francisco to Las Vegas three months prior.
Heather had told her family in San Francisco she wanted to become an armored truck driver for Loomis. Heather did not have a security background. She had previously worked in non-profit hospice care for HIV/ AIDS patients.
When Heather moved to Vegas, at the persuasion of Roberto Solis, she wanted to “Make money and never have to worry about it again.” Solis and Heather would go one to carry out the most significant American casino heists in history.
Roberto and Heather met in a bar a few months before they ultimately acted on their plan to rob Loomis and the Circus Circus of over three million USD. Roberto seemed to have had an almost brainwashed control over Heather.
Heather was 39 years’ Solis’s junior. He had been convicted for murder in another armed car robbery. He shot the driver and was later apprehended. He would go on to serve time and was released on parole in 1992.
Heather told her hiring manager that she wanted to start at the bottom of the security industry and work her way up. She is also quoted in news articles as wanting to know the ins and outs of the security industry
She specifically wanted to learn about the armored vehicles that transported the massive amounts of cash to and from the casinos in Vegas. She had a clean record and no priors.
She was hired.
She excelled in her role as a driver of an armored vehicle. On this sunny morning, things would take a different road then her two coworkers had planned.
Heather dropped her two coworkers off at the front door of the Circus Circus Casino around 8 a.m. They were refilling the ATMs on the casino floor. Heather was to meet them on the other side of the casino to pick them up and continue their route.
Her two coworkers continued with their ATM duties throughout the casino. This activity should’ve taken them about 20 minutes to complete.
In and out.
When they finished refilling the ATMs on the casino floor, they walked out the door to meet Heather.
She wasn’t there.
It should’ve been plenty of time for her drive around to the back and wait for her coworkers.
But she never showed.
The two men waited for her to show. They thought maybe she was caught in traffic.
Heather was still missing, though.
They waited a bit longer before calling the main office for assistance.
It should be noted that Heather always followed the strict security protocol of the company and never veered off operating procedures.
After a long wait time, the two Loomis employees decided to make the call to the Loomis office. They let the dispatcher know that Heather and the armored vehicle had simply disappeared.
This was in 1993.
There were no GPS devices, cell phones, texting, or even a locator on the truck.
All they had to rely on was a radio.
Loomis HQ sent another truck to pick up the two stranded workers and search for the missing vehicle and Heather.
They would never find her or the truck.
Heather and Roberto boarded a plane with fake passports (presumably) in Denver the next day. Heather would go on the run for the next few years across the world with Solis.
At some point, Heather and Roberto welcomed a son into their lives. Heather was never clear on when she and Solis parted ways.
Heather eventually settled down in Amsterdam, Netherlands. She took cash jobs to keep her identity and location undercover.
She was able to support herself and her son by working these odd jobs. Solis had fled from his family with all the stolen money.
In 2005, Heather dropped her son off at school, knowing it would be a long time before they would see each other again.
Heather boarded a flight to Las Vegas to turn herself in to the authorities.
She had arranged for friends to take care of her son until she was released from prison for her crimes.
Heather is quoted saying that she was tired of looking over her shoulder and wanted a normal life for her son.
I can’t even begin to imagine carrying around that emotional weight for 12 years.
Many believe that Heather was coerced and manipulated by an older man who had led a life of crime.
Did he use her to do his will?
We may never know, as Heather doesn’t give interviews and keeps a low profile.
Roberto Solis and the missing millions in cash have never been found. Some say that he used Heather and her naivete to carry out the biggest casino heist in American history.
Their love was strange and toxic.
How could a father leave his family when they were on the run for a robbery that was his master plan?
Ritz Casino, London – 1.9 Million Pounds (1.64 Million USD)
I’ll make this one short and sweet. This heist took place in London at the Ritz Casino.
The Ritz is located below ground. It’s underneath the famous Picadilly Square.
The casino is in the basement of the opulent Ritz Hotel and is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful casinos in the world.
Did you know the work “Ritzy” comes from this very hotel?
In 2004, three Eastern European gamblers were caught using technology to cheat at roulette. The two men (early 30’s) and the Hungarian woman used a laser scanner hidden in a cell phone to clock how fast the ball was moving on the wheel.
This information was relayed to a microcomputer to give the trio a chance to place their bet before the ball landed on the wheel. This is not only high tech but a lot of quick thinking.
To be able to do this in a lab is laborious.
Could you imagine doing it in real-time without getting caught?
They did get caught on video surveillance cameras. The trio was able to walk away with their winnings until they were later captured.
The first night they were in the casino, they won 100,000.00 pounds. They returned the following night to rack up a whopping additional 1.2 million.
Thinking they got away, they returned to their hotel room with the winnings. The trio was later contacted by Scotland Yard and brought in for questioning.
The “gang,” as they were called in multiple reports, were charged with obtaining winnings through deception. This is where UK gambling laws are a bit foggy.
The UK, at the time, had an outdated law on the books that didn’t take technology into account. They simply said you should be fair when obtaining winnings. Later the next year, the UK would pass a law outlawing using external devices to get winnings.
Amazingly, three were able to use such complicated technology and think on the fly to cheat their way into over 1.5 million USD.
That’s the end of my 2-part series on the most significant casino heists in history.
They’re exciting, a little sad, and I’m always kind of rooting for the cheater.
I don’t know why.
I just like underdogs, I guess.
If you noticed the dates, the types of swindling got more complicated as technology has matured and become more widespread.
I predict that future casino heists will become more technology-driven and complicated. Not only will they be more tech-driven, I think that they will be larger and larger sums of money.
The thieves have to account for inflation, right?