Heist Involved Elaborate Scheme to Steal $198,000 from the Vault in a Caged Security Room at the Casino
SAN FRANCISCO– LAWFUEL – US Legal News Daily – United States Attorney Kevin V. Ryan announced that three defendants were indicted today on charges of stealing $198,000 from the vault at the Cher-Ae Heights Indian Casino in Humboldt County, Calif., on November 1, 2006. The defendants are:
• Peter Daniel Collins, 35, of Marysville, Washington
• Emily Katherine Weitzel, 22, of Marysville, Washington
• Daniel Ivan Porter, 37, of McKinleyville, California
A criminal complaint for the case alleges that the three defendants worked together to successfully steal $198,000 from the vault in the caged work room at the casino. The complaint alleges that Mr. Porter was the “inside man” who worked as an employee in the surveillance room of the casino and had keys and electronic access to three security doors leading to the casino vault and to the vault itself. Ms. Weitzel was the “handoff woman” to whom Mr. Porter transferred his security keys while she played slots in the casino. Ms. Weitzel then handed the keys off to Mr. Collins, who was disguised as a casino security officer. Mr. Collins proceeded to use the keys, as well as additional assistance from Mr. Porter from the surveillance room, to unlock the doors to the caged security room that contained the vault. To avoid detection from an employee in the caged security room, Mr. Collins crawled his way to the vault, and was assisted by Ms. Weitzel, who called and distracted the employee with a four-minute telephone conversation.
Meanwhile, Mr. Collins allegedly accessed the vault and deposited $198,000 cash into a duffel bag that he had concealed in his pants pocket. According to the complaint, surveillance footage showed that Mr. Collins communicated with Mr. Porter during the heist by way of a “bluetooth” wireless headset and asked him whether it was clear to come out of the caged security room. Once Mr. Collins left the caged security room, he handed the keys back to Ms. Weitzel, who then returned the keys to Mr. Porter. Mr. Collins drove away, by himself, in a sedan that had been parked at the casino. Ms. Weitzel followed in a second car that had been parked at the casino.
The complaint further alleges that defendants participated in a dress rehearsal the evening before the actual theft, where Mr. Porter manipulated some of the cameras in the
security area. Additionally, the complaint alleges that the defendants communicated with each other prior to the heist by way of text messages. A search of a storage locker rented by Mr. Collins and Ms. Weitzel in McKinleyville, Calif., revealed a sweater consistent with one worn by Ms. Weitzel on the night of the heist.
According to court filings, soon after the heist, Mr. Collins and Ms. Weitzel traveled to Washington State where, using the aliases “John Hollins” and “Julie Andrews” respectively, they each wired $950 to Mr. Porter in California. The complaint also alleges that Mr. Collins purchased a Ford Mustang in Washington State with over $21,000 in cash. Subsequent searches conducted at Mr. Collins’s and Ms. Weitzel’s Marysville, Wash., residence revealed additional evidence, such as a silver briefcase containing approximately $151,000 in U.S. currency and money straps on the cash that matched the types used by the casino, linking Collins, Weitzel, and Porter to the casino heist.
Mr. Collins was arrested on January 17, 2007 in Eureka, California and made his initial appearance in federal court in Eureka on January 18, 2007, and is currently being held in San Francisco.
Ms. Weitzel was arrested on January 4, 2007 in San Francisco, California and made her initial appearance in federal court in San Francisco on January 5, 2007, and is currently out on bond. Bail was set at $200,000.
Mr. Porter was arrested December 28, 2006 in Eureka, California and made his initial appearance in federal court in Eureka on December 29, 2006, and is currently out on bond. Bail was set at $250,000. The defendants’ next scheduled appearances are at 9:30 a.m. on January 29, 2007 for arraignment before Chief Magistrate Judge Larson.
The three defendants are charged with conspiring to steal over $1,000 from an Indian casino, to transport the stolen money across state lines, and to launder the transported money, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. The three defendants are also charged with the theft of over $1,000 from a gaming establishment on Indian lands, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1167(b) and with transporting stolen money across state lines, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2314. Ms. Weitzel and Mr. Collins are each charged with one count of money laundering, while Mr. Porter is charged with two counts of money laundering, all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(a)(1)(B)(i). Finally, Mr. Collins is charged with one count of the use of over $10,000 of stolen money, in violation Title 18, United States Code, Section 1957. The charges are the result of an investigation by the California Department of Justice, Division of Gambling Control, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.
The maximum penalty for conspiracy to violate federal law is five years and a fine of $250,000. The maximum statutory penalty for each count of theft from gaming establishments on Indian lands in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1167(b), of transportation of stolen goods in interstate commerce in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2314, and of the use of over $10,000 of stolen money is ten years is ten years and a fine of $250,000. The maximum statutory penalty for each count of money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i) is twenty years and a fine of $500,000. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
An indictment contains only allegations against an individual and, as with all defendants, Mr. Collins, Ms. Weitzel, and Mr. Porter must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Robert Rees is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Nai Saelee. The prosecution is the result of a two and a half month investigation by the California Department of Justice, Division of Gambling Control, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department, and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, with the generous assistance of the Washington State Patrol, the U.S. Marshal’s Service of the Northern District of California and the Western District of Washington, the Snohomish County, Washington Regional Drug Task Force, the Arlington, Washington Police Department, the Snohomish County, Washington Sheriff’s Office, the Marysville, Washington Police Department, and the Trinidad, California Police Department.
A copy of this press release may be found on the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s website at www.usdoj.gov/usao/can.
Electronic court filings and further procedural and docket information are available at https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.
Judges’ calendars with schedules for upcoming court hearings can be viewed on the court’s website at www.cand.uscourts.gov.
All press inquiries to the U.S. Attorney’s Office should be directed to Luke Macaulay at (415) 436-6757 or by email at [email protected]