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Bellagio ‘biker bandit’ to serve at least 9 years in prison


Sam Morris

Anthony Carleo, also known as the “Bellagio Bandit,” closes his eyes as he is sentenced for his robbery of the Suncoast by Judge Michael Villani Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011.

Updated Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011 | 11:13 a.m.

Anthony Carleo

Anthony Carleo, also known as the Launch slideshow »

Anthony Carleo, the man who called himself the "biker bandit," will serve between nine and 27 years in prison for robbing both the Bellagio and the Suncoast casinos last December, a Clark County judge ruled today.

"I'm completely ashamed of myself,” Carleo said this morning before being sentenced. "I'm not a lost cause, though. I know I can turn my life around."

District Judge Michael Villani decided to sentence Carleo, 30, to six to 16 years for the Dec. 9 Suncoast robbery.

Villani disregarded appeals of Carleo’s attorney, William Terry, to run the Suncoast sentence concurrent to the sentence Carleo got Tuesday for the Bellagio heist, which was three to 11 years.

Carleo will also have to pay $18,945 in restitution for the money he took from from a Suncoast cashier’s cage that was near where a poker tournament had been taking place.

The matter of restitution in the Bellagio robbery is still to be determined. Carleo took some $1.5 million in casino chips at gunpoint from a craps table in the casino’s pit area on Dec. 14, then ran through the casino wearing a full-faced motorcycle helmet and escaped on a motorcycle into the night.

Assistant District Attorney Chris Owens told Villani that police still have not recovered about $793,000 in chips from the Bellagio robbery. Many of those were cranberry-colored $25,000 chips.

Carleo’s attorney, William Terry, argued that the chips are now without value because the casino no longer uses them. Terry said almost as soon as the chips were taken, a network was set up to make sure any of the stolen chips that came back into the casino were scrutinized.

"That was one of the major problems that Mr. Carleo had, which was, it's one thing to take something, it's another thing to get rid," Terry said.

Villani said he didn't feel comfortable dealing with the Bellagio restitution and referred the matter back to Judge Michelle Leavitt, who sentenced Carleo in the Bellagio case on Tuesday.

Before issuing the sentence on the Suncoast robbery, Villani said he had received a packet of character reference letters from those advocating for Carleo. Those include both his mother and his father, former Las Vegas Municipal Judge George Assad, who attended the sentencing.

The letters also included a city councilman from Colorado, teachers, principals, grandparents, a former Colorado sheriff and numerous friends, Villani said.

Terry argued, that in looking at the letters, "you ask yourself 'What went wrong? This was a young man who was on the right road, more than on the right road."

Terry said the letters show he was well respected.

"You've got the All-American boy here. So what goes wrong?" Terry said. He blamed it on a car accident that led to Carleo taking Oxycodone, a pain medication.

"Before long, he was hooked on the pills," Terry said. Carleo began a downward spiral that led to "a horrendous drug addiction," Terry said.

"He was getting prescriptions like they were going out of style," Terry said.

Terry said that a presentence report to the court says Carleo's "addiction to gambling and drugs drove a once law-abiding person to commit the crimes worthy of a hardened criminal."

Click to enlarge photo

Anthony Carleo, also known as the "Bellagio Bandit," stands as he is sentenced for his robbery of the Suncoast by Judge Michael Villani Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011.

Since his arrest in February, Carleo has been in the Clark County Detention Center, where he now has no drug issues.

"I can't tell you he's not going to go back to drugs, but it's highly unrealistic to believe that," Terry said.

Terry said before coming to Las Vegas to attend UNLV to get a bachelor's degree, Carleo had a real estate license and two associate degrees.

"This was a downward spiral that occurred within a short period of time," Terry said.

Terry argued for making the sentences run concurrently, rather than consecutively with each other for what he called Carleo's "December spree."

Villani said he read the letters and thought Carleo sounded like "someone you might want as your neighbor."

However, the judge said that the planning of the two robberies was sophisticated and not an impulse crime.

Villani said he was "dumbfounded" by the parole and probation department's recommendation that Carleo be given a minimum sentence of two years for the Suncoast robbery.

"This isn't the same as grabbing a purse from someone in a parking lot," Villani said. "I can imagine how the cashier felt and the manager felt when he pointed a gun at them."

Specifically, Villani sentenced Carleo to a minimum of 54 months and a maximum term of 144 months for the Suncoast robbery, plus a consecutive term for using a weapon of from 18 months to 48 months, which equates to a term of six to 16 years.

The judge also sentenced him to an 18- to 60-month term for his second felony charge in the Suncoast robbery, which will run concurrently.

Villani said Carleo placed Suncoast clerks, employees and security guards in danger during the robbery.

"You placed every patron in that hotel in danger," Villani said. "That warrants the appropriate punishment."

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