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July 31, 2015

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Attorney: Man arrested in Rio robbery wasn’t involved in planning of heist

Judge sets preliminary hearing for March for two men charged in casino heist, while third man still at large

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Justin M. Bowen

Edward Land makes an appearance in Las Vegas Justice Court Tuesday, March 1, 2011. Land and Hiroyuki Yamaguchi are charged in connection with the robbery at the Rio Thursday, Feb. 28, 2011. Authorities are still trying to find Steven Gao, who they say committed the robbery.

Rio Robbery Suspects

Hiroyuki Yamaguchi (left) makes an appearance in Las Vegas Justice Court Tuesday, March 1, 2011. Yamaguchi is charged in connection with the robbery at the Rio Thursday, Feb. 28, 2011. Launch slideshow »
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Steven Gao

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Map of The Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino

The Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino

3700 W. Flamingo Rd., Las Vegas

Edward Hua Land, a local insurance executive and one of the two men arrested in last Thursday's robbery of the Rio, is an upstanding resident who "had a robbery dropped in his lap," Land's attorney told a Las Vegas judge today.

However, Judge Deborah Lippis set total bail at $125,000 for Land because there was a firearm involved in the robbery, which took place about 4:30 a.m. Thursday at the Rio.

Lippis said she would reconsider bail at the 9 a.m. March 15 preliminary hearing, which she set both for both Land, 41, and Hiroyuki Yamaguchi, 61, who allegedly drove the getaway cab.

Lippis read both men the charges today at their arraignment: conspiracy to commit robbery, burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon and robbery with use of a deadly weapon, all felonies.

Both Land and Yamaguchi and are being held in the Clark County Detention Center. Yamaguchi, who used an interpreter to help him communicate, was appointed a public defender. His bail was also set at $125,000.

Authorities are still looking for 45-year-old Steven Gao, who they say committed the robbery.

Land has admitted to police that he dropped Gao off at the casino. Police say Gao then walked into the casino wearing a fedora hat, a wig, a fake mustache and sunglasses, stole $33,200 in chips and left in Yamaguchi's taxi.

According to a police report, Land told police Gao owed him $15,000 and robbed the casino to pay back the debt.

However, Land's attorney, Louis Schneider told the judge that Land wasn't in on the robbery.

"My client's had a robbery dropped in his lap and would like to be able to get out," Schneider said.

Schneider told the judge that Land has lived in the area for 16 years, holds a master's degree in business from UNLV and is a U.S. citizen. Schneider asked that cash bail be set at $10,000, with supervision.

However, Deputy District Attorney Alicia Albritton argued that Land saw Gao wearing a fake mustache "and realized something was going on and he was about to do something."

Albritton said Land "subsequently is the one who meets him. He subsequently is the one who receives the bag of cash. He subsequently is the one who meets this young man afterwards and takes him back to his house. At that point, of course, it's really clear as to what's going on."

According to police, Gao entered the casino and went to a Pai Gow poker table and began taking chips from the dealer and putting them in a black shoulder bag.

After the dealer hit Gao's hand, Gao allegedly took out a gun, police said.

Police said Gao finished the robbery, then left the Rio with Yamaguchi, a cab driver who police said also knew of Gao's robbery plans.

After the robbery, Gao and Yamaguchi went to the Terrible's hotel-casino at Flamingo and Paradise roads, where they met Land, police said.

Police said Yamaguchi later confessed his role in the robbery. Police said they recovered $1,000 in casino chips and an unloaded handgun in Yamaguchi's cab.

Authorities also said they also recovered $17,000 worth of chips, a wig and a black bag from Land's home. They said the chips were buried in Land's back yard.

Albritton argued that, with the amount of money that was stolen and the use of a firearm, that bail should be set for the firearms charge at $100,000.

Schneider said it is "totally accurate" that Land realized something was going on — "and left."

Lippis said she recognized that Land had no prior criminal history. But the judge said she also recognized that the use of deadly weapons in areas of high visitor volume is "extraordinarily dangerous."

Outside the courtroom, Schneider told reporters when Land "realized something was going on, he walked away. He left. And that ends the conspiracy. That affirmative action ends the conspiracy. He didn't know that allegedly Mr. Gao was going to rob this casino. But he knew something looked funny and he walked away from it. It looked strange."

Schneider said he didn't know when Gao put the fake mustache on, before or after he got out of Land's car.

Asked about Land's involvement in the chips being buried in his backyard, Schneider said Land wasn't involved.

"My client disassociated himself when he came back to his house, said I don't want anything to do with this, took a shower, and that's when Mr. Gao allegedly buried the money," Schneider said.

Schneider said Land "was trying to help Mr. Gao out, had loaned him money to live on — not to game with — and had been putting pressure on Mr. Gao to pay him back,"

Schneider said he understood the reason behind the judge's decision to set bail at $100,000 because of her concern to protect the public.

"I think if you pull a gun in a public place, people can get hurt," Schneider said. "My client wasn't there. My client made an affirmative action to leave."

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