It probably comes as no surprise that real casino heists are far less glamorous than Hollywood's blockbusting portrayals. The culprits aren't brimful of catchy lines, there's a decided lack of explosives, hardly anyone looks like they just stepped out of a salon and the heists don't always require state-of-the-art gadgets. This said, the real life casino robberies do carry an air of strangeness, absurdity and downright unbelievability that Hollywoodized heists can't quite preserve.
Maybe it's because of the physical distance between the audience of a film and the actual action in the film, maybe it's because big screen movies tend to exaggerate to the point of discredit, or maybe it's because even if a film is based on real events, reality is stranger than fiction – and harder to capture. Maybe it's a bit of everything, but regardless, the stories behind real life casino heists are bare bones and the most famous robberies in history, despite being stripped of the silver screen's glitz, remain as, if not more fascinating.
From fortuitous footwear, to jilted love, to easy exits, here's a list of five of the most famous heists in casino history.
5. Booking It
Casino: The Stardust Culprit: Bill Brennan
While the Stardust casino has since been demolished, the tale of Bill Brennan, a sportsbook cashier at the venue, still looms. On a September day in 1992, Brennan left around lunch after his shift slinging $500,000 in cash and chips in a bag over his shoulder. Despite being featured on the FBI's most wanted list and America's most wanted, there is still no sign of Brennan. Some maintain that he had an accomplice who killed Brennan and took off with all the money, but most believe he flew solo. To this day, Brennan remains at large.
4. An Evening at the Circus
Casino: Circus Circus Culprits: Heather Tallchief and Roberto Solis
Some couples take up ballroom dancing together, others, rock climbing. Some take cooking classes, others might learn a foreign language together. Not Heather Tallchief and Roberto Solis, though. This couple decided to rob Las Vegas' Circus Circus Casino, making off in a Loomis armoured truck with over $2.5 million. Tallchief, then 21-years-old, and Solis, 43, gave US officials the slip and snuck out of the States via the Cayman Islands and St. Martin. Not long after Solis skipped out on Tallchief and their young son, leaving her with a mere $1,000 and, predictably, a broken heart. Tallchief managed to live under the radar of the law for 12 years, evading not only US authorities, but also authorities in the Netherlands and Amsterdam. She eventually surrendered in September 2005, telling MSNBC, "There's no running away anymore. I've done enough of that."
Her lawyer argued that she was manipulated by Solis. Her sentence was 63 months in jail. Ain't love grand?
3. Roulette Of The Nerds
Casino: Various Throughout California Culprits: Two University of California Santa Cruz Students (unnamed)
While the exact identity of the thieves remains ambiguous, it is known that two California university physic students managed to pull of one of the most odd casino scams in history. In the 1970's, this nefariously clever duo developed a computer that could fit in a shoe and ultimately, interfere with the spin of roulette wheels. One of the students would wear a shoe, outfitted with a tiny computer. The proximity of the shoe to the wheel would cause the disruption in spinning while also reading the wheel's movement. Player 2 would then have this information relayed via his own shoe and would bet based on the first computer's prediction. The main downfall of this device was that it would often shock the players and result in singed socks. After months of reaping the rewards of their devious plot (144% returns on their bets, to be exact), the men were apprehended.
2. Ocean's Three
Casino: Bellagio Culprits: Jose Vigoa, Luis Suarez and Oscar Sanchez
In June 2000, Jose Vigoa, Luis Suarez and Oscar Sanchez tried to make like Danny Ocean and rob the Bellagio for over $160,000. Unfortunately, they were apprehended since Vigoa – already a known bank robber – was caught on video without his mask. Another snafu: Sanchez confessed, thus ratting out Vigoa and Suarez. In 2002, Vigoa was sentenced to life in prison. Sanchez hung himself in jail.
1. An Inside Job
Casino: Soboba Casino Culprits: Eric Alan Aguilera and Roland Luda Ramos
The Soboba Casino in California was robbed for $1.5 million USD by casino worker Rolando Luda Ramos and friend Eric Alan Aguilera.
After he bound and gagged three fellow employees, Ramos then held another seven others at gunpoint, At this juncture he took the money from the casino's vault. Aguilera was the getaway car driver.
Neither one of the men managed to enjoy their loot for long. Ramos was apprehended in disguise at LA International Airport on August 8, 2007. The fact that he was toting cocaine at the time did not improve authorities opinion of this fugitive. Aguilera was arrested a week earlier.