Man steals $33 million from Australian casino in Oceans 11-like heist
An unknown man stole $33 million from an Australian casino by hacking into its surveillance footage and having the information relayed to him via earpiece.
While many felt "Ocean's Eleven," the movie starring Brad Pitt and George Clooney about a massive and intricately planned casino heist, was exciting and well thought out, not many believed a caper like the one depicted in the film could actually succeed.
There were too many variables, too much pizazz, and casino security in the movie was made to look like a doltish snail.
Sometimes, however, life does imitate art, at least in Australia.
This month, the Crown Casino, Australia's largest, alerted police that a foreigner had hacked into its security surveillance system and scammed the casino for $33 million, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.
Security experts believe the Crown's own methods of surveillance and protection were used against it. According to ABC, Crown has high-resolution cameras that pan, tilt and zoom in on gaming tables, which the unknown thief, who was playing at high stakes VIP tables, gained access to, allowing him to have the content phoned into him via an earpiece he was wearing.
Crown officials have yet to comment on how the scam was carried out. They said the thief has been identified in their surveillance footage and banned from their casinos. They also said a member of the casino's VIP staff who was assigned to look after the gambler has been dismissed, but they did not say if the staff member was involved in the heist, CNBC reports.
Linda Hancock, who's written a book about the Crown Casino, says the haul did not immediately draw attention because it's perfectly common for Crown to not only attract "big whales," but also let them bet incredible amounts of money.
"The Crown Casino has about six or seven Learjets," Hancock told ABC. "It flies these VIPs in so how it all works is that these people have a minder. The person had his family with him — that's not uncommon either. They come in, they look after the family while the high roller gambles."
According to Las Vegas-based casino consultant Barron Stringfellow, pulling off this type of heist takes far fewer resources than an "Ocean's Eleven"-type sting. Instead, most of the equipment can purchased at any local electronics store.
"Intercepting them [the surveillance signals] is simple as going down to a local Radio Shack," he told ABC.
He described the operation as this: The player wears an earpiece that is fed information from an accomplice sitting somewhere in the casino or outside of it. This person would have access to the casino's surveillance feed and would be watching the action on the table. They would then relay the best plays and bets to the player.
According to Stringfellow, these schemes are more common than the public thinks, and only go unreported because casinos are loathe to disclose them, fearing the repercussions of bad PR.
Crown Casino has pledged to recover the money, but Stringfellow says that outcome is close to impossible if the thief was able to leave the property with the windfall.