Cheating at cards has been as old as card – but charges by federal grand juries against two dozen people who used bribes, transmitters and card counters to cheat casinos has taken cheating to a whole new level.
George Lee and Tien Duc Vu were riding a major winning streak.
During four visits to the Nooksack River Casino in October 2005, the two men walked away from the mini-baccarat table with more than $90,000 in winnings. Their luck, playing a game of chance that relies solely on the draw of the cards, was remarkably good.
According to federal prosecutors, it was too good.
The men are among two dozen people who have been indicted by federal grand juries in Seattle and San Diego for allegedly being part of a sophisticated racketeering ring that used bribes, transmitters and card counters to cheat casinos in Washington, California, Nevada, Connecticut, Mississippi, Louisiana, Indiana and Canada of more than $3 million.
Among those named in the indictments unsealed Thursday were casino card dealers and pit bosses, including Jacob Nickels, 25, the son of Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, who prosecutors say were bribed to participate in the plot.
Along with the $90,000 from the Nooksack River Casino in Deming, Whatcom County, the ring stole more than $1 million from the Emerald Queen Casino near Fife in 2003, prosecutors allege.
Tribal casinos, which rake in billions of dollars each year, rely on four levels of security to combat would-be cheaters: security personnel and cameras, table-game supervisors or pit bosses, dealers and customers.