Friday, Feb. 4, 2011 | 2 a.m.
- Rich Coleman talks about the "Biker Bandit" on KCBS
Related Document (.pdf)
Metro news conference on arrest
Robber Flees the Bellagio
- Bellagio robbery suspect to appear before judge Monday (2-4-2011)
- Metro Police arrest judge’s son in Bellagio casino robbery (2-3-2011)
- After Bellagio heist, how slack security can cost Las Vegas casinos (1-11-2011)
- Bellagio nixing $25,000 chip after heist (12-29-2010)
- Bellagio bandit gets $1.5 million in gambling chips (12-14-2010)
Matthew Brooks, a 29-year-old management consultant from Washington, D.C., occasionally plays poker for fun. This is how it started.
And now it may be ending with his involvement in the arrest of Anthony M. Carleo, otherwise known as the alleged “Biker Bandit” who ripped off $1.5 million in casino chips from the Bellagio and was last seen running toward the door in his biker get-up.
Brooks isn’t and never has been a big-time gambler. The last time he was in Las Vegas was in 2003. When he does play poker, it’s low-limit fare. It’s more of a hobby than anything else, he says.
His hobby carried over to the Internet where, for at least five years he has regularly posted on TwoPlusTwo.com, a forum dedicated to poker discussion, where he went by the name “Provotrout.”
One day last month, Brooks weighed in with his thoughts in a discussion thread about the Biker Bandit.
“There was a thread just speculating on what happened to the chips, how he was going to get rid of the chips, whether it was possible, whether or not he’ll get caught, who he’d go to,” Brooks said. “Just trying to figure it out, because it’s kind of an interesting subject, you know?”
“Interesting” is putting it mildly. Since it occurred in December, the robbery has become a national story. An anonymous figure who donates to charities even offered a $50,000 bounty for anyone who helped bring the Biker Bandit to justice. And, of course, everyone went wild with comparisons to “Ocean’s Eleven,” a film which details a highly complex heist at Bellagio.
While George Clooney and Brad Pitt’s characters brought panache to ripping off a casino, there was nothing sexy about a plain-ol’ stickup.
On Dec. 14, Carleo allegedly drove a motorcycle to the north valet of the Bellagio and, with the helmet still on, walked briskly onto the casino floor, pulled out a handgun, grabbed stacks of casino chips and stuffed them in his fanny pack.
He ran back to his motorcycle, yelled at security to “Move!” and off he went.
A month later, Brooks’ participation in the online discussion about the Bandit was garnering attention from someone named “Ocean-
spray25.” Brooks was about to engage with the Biker Bandit.
“His first few posts were directed at me saying, ‘Hey, I need to talk to you about this,’ ” Brooks said. “I was kind of taken aback by it, it was kind of surprising.”
Brooks said he received an e-mail Jan. 26 from the fellow, whose e-moniker was Cranberrykid25, asking if he would be interested in paying 20 cents on the dollar for the casino chips and, if so, how many Brooks would be willing to purchase.
Brooks assumed the discussion was hypothetical, and wondered if he had given the impression to Oceanspray25-turned-Cranberrykid25 that he was a high roller with a generous bankroll. In fact, Brooks had been wondering if Cranberrykid25 was a high roller, given that “cranberry” is a nickname for the $25,000 cranberry-red Bellagio chips.
“I don’t have anywhere near the amount of cash to do this type of thing. I think he saw me posting (on the website) about the secondary market for chips, just speculating on whether or not there is one … and the nature of how (the suspect) would get rid of the chips,” Brooks said. “I’m assuming that’s why he contacted me.”
Brooks suggested they not e-mail and the two then exchanged phone numbers. Eventually, he was on the phone with the man who allegedly took $1.5 million in chips from the Bellagio.
“At this point, I was just very curious, like, ‘What in the world is going on here?’ I approached this from a curiosity perspective to figure out if this guy was for real or if he was a scammer,” Brooks said.
“The more I talked to him, the more I figured out this was probably the guy. Over the course of talking with him, he was just nervous and really anxious and told me about how he had blown through the lower denomination chips just partying for the last month or so. I’m sure that’s not hard to do in Vegas.”
Brooks said, based on his interaction with the man, he seemed “desperate” and “strung out.” (Carleo’s arrest report, released Thursday by Metro Police, said Carleo was prescribed 80 mg tablets of the narcotic painkiller OxyContin and was using the drug “in excess.”
“He was pretty much mentally broken down at this point,” Brooks said.
Brooks had avoided asking for Carleo’s name as to avoid rousing suspicion, but Brooks’ own suspicion was getting the best of him so he came out and asked.
“I just asked him point blank, ‘Did you just happen to come by these chips or is this your deal? Did you do this?’ ” Brooks said. “He said, ‘Oh, that was me. I’m that guy.’ ”
For the next 20 minutes, Brooks tried to build a rapport with Carleo over the phone. Brooks said Carleo asked him if he wanted to see a picture of the chips. Before he knew it, Brooks had been e-mailed eight images of two $25,000 Bellagio chips. The chips were placed in different positions on a sheet of loose leaf paper as if Carleo was modeling them in a photo shoot.
One picture had a handwritten message from Carleo: “To Provotrout: Good Luck My Friend …” and signed it “Biker Bandit 1/26/11.”
“At that point, I was just about positive it was the guy,” Brooks said.
He wasted no time. Working with a co-worker, Brooks was able to trace Carleo’s computer IP address to a location in Summerlin. He e-mailed Metro Police and the FBI with the information, but with no immediate response, he sent all of the correspondence and information to Bellagio security.
Metro called him that night and he gave a statement.
Brooks’ chance encounter with the Biker Bandit left his head spinning for days. But in fact, detectives were on Carleo’s trail before Brooks entered the scene.
According to the arrest report, Metro had a fix on Carleo thanks to citizen sources, undercover confidential informants and various tips. The arrest report says police found Carleo’s Facebook profile weeks before Brooks was in the picture.
So were Brooks’ dealings with Carleo the final nail in his coffin? Brooks isn’t positive and Bellagio security and Metro Police can’t comment.
But at least Brooks can start his own discussion thread on the Internet: his dealings with the man boasting to be the Biker Bandit.