Man using prosthetic masks to steal $100k from casinos arrested by Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribal Police

A man using a prosthetic mask stole more than $100,000 at casinos, prosecutors say
A man using a prosthetic mask stole more than $100,000 at casinos, prosecutors say(CNN)
Published: Jul. 26, 2020 at 7:40 PM CDT
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JACKSON CO., Kan. (CNN/WIBW) - Federal authorities say a Michigan man allegedly managed to steal more than $100,000 from casino patrons in Michigan and Kansas.

According to CNN the man used a prosthetic mask, counterfeit driver’s licenses, and personal information obtained on the internet.

The Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribal Police arrested John Colletti on March 12 for identity theft at the Prairie Band Casino and Resort in Mayetta, Kansas, according to the report.

Colletti, 55, went as far as disguising himself as an elderly man to evade suspicion, federal prosecutors say.

He allegedly targeted victims by illegally obtaining their personal information and then using counterfeit driver’s licenses to withdraw funds from their personal bank accounts through self-service kiosks at several casinos, according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed in federal court in Michigan Thursday.

CNN says the kiosks are operated by Global Payments Gaming Services. They’re used by the casino industry for bill-breaking, jackpot processing, cash withdrawals, cash advances, and ticket exchanges, among other services, according to the complaint.

“We initially identified this fraudulent activity and immediately alerted our customer and law enforcement. Throughout the investigation, we provided support and cooperation that ultimately led to the apprehension of this suspect,” said Global Payments spokeswoman Emily Edmonds in a statement to CNN.

Colletti is facing charges of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and fraud and related activity in connection with access devices, according to the complaint.

CNN says he is currently in the custody of US Marshals in Kansas, he has a detention hearing set for July 30, according to court documents filed in Kansas.

A spokesperson for the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Michigan says they’ve requested Colletti be transferred to face the charges in Michigan.

Colletti’s pretrial proceedings will be held in Topeka, according to CNN.

The investigation originally began when casino security at the MGM Grand Casino identified at least 10 victims of identity theft that lost a total of approximately $98,840 between April 26 and May 27, 2019, according in the complaint.

The incidents were reported to the Michigan State Police, who opened an investigation and identified a suspect based on surveillance video, CNN says.

Each time the surveillance footage shows a person using a full prosthetic face mask to resemble an elderly White man, according to the complaint.

About a year later, the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribal Police took Colletti into custody after noticing suspicious activity.

Casino employees had seen through surveillance video, a person disguised as an elderly man “wearing a straw hat, glasses, and using a mobility walker,” withdraw roughly $20,000 from kiosks, according to CNN.

Casino security approached the man, later identified as Colletti, and asked him for his social security number because he had withdrawn such a large amount of cash, the complaint said. “Colletti immediately went to the restroom, where he removed his disguise. Colletti then exited the casino with a noticeable bulge down the front of his pants, believed to be the prosthetic face mask,” the CNN said.

In the restroom, police found clothes, a mobility walker, a Nissan car key, two Michigan driver's licenses, and approximately $11,000 in cash, according to the complaint.

On the back of the driver’s licenses were sticky notes with the victims’ Social Security number and telephone number, CNN says, which were needed to complete the kiosk transactions.

Tribal police arrested Colletti and contacted the FBI, the complaint said.

Tribal police later searched Colleti's rental car and found four prosthetic face masks, flash drives, "books on how to get away with committing crime," identification cards and various kiosk receipts, according to the complaint. Police found the prosthetic mask the next day near the casino, the complaint said.

According to CNN, investigators recovered 83 driver’s licenses, 14 insurance cards in multiple names, 19 players cards from various casinos, two Binghamton University staff ID cards, and one Social Security card under an alias, authorities said.

According to the FBI, Global Payment investigators noticed the similarities between the identity theft investigation in Michigan and the transactions at the tribal casino.

CNN says Tribal police contacted investigators in Michigan, who confirmed that Colletti’s photo matched the unidentified subject in the MGM Grand Casino identity theft investigation.

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