Wednesday, April 19, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Using the wrong Social Security number in a casino can cost you millions of dollars and land you in jail as professional sports bettor David Nakama Oancea, also known as Vegas Dave, is finding out.
According to an indictment issued by a federal grand jury last Wednesday, Oancea used Social Security numbers that weren’t his to place nine bets in 2015 and 2016 at the Wynn and Westgate sports books.
Under the Bank Secrecy Act, casinos are considered financial institutions and must report transactions of $10,000 or more by filing a currency transaction report or CTR.
To fill out the CTR the casinos ask for government-issued identification and a Social Security number. There are also additional Nevada laws governing when bettors must present identification when making similarly sized bets.
If you offer a fake Social Security number or use someone else’s, you’re committing two crimes — misuse of a Social Security number, and causing a domestic financial institution (in this case the casino) to file a false report.
As a result, Oancea faces 19 counts for bets he placed totaling more than $1.3 million between Feb. 6, 2015, and Feb. 2, 2016. Nine are for Social Security misuse, and the other 10 are for causing false reports.
Each count carries a potential five-year prison term, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Las Vegas. In addition, the indictment calls for Oancea to forfeit just over half a million dollars.
On his social media accounts and his website, Oancea boasts of winning record-setting bets, including a futures bet on the Kansas City Royals to win the World Series in 2015 for $2.5 million and a futures bet on the Denver Broncos to win the Super Bowl in 2016 for $2.3 million.
Oancea did not respond to requests for comment. However, on his Twitter account last week, he did post a short statement: “At the end of the day the truth will always come out. Can't wait till next week when the world hears what I have to say.”
The local office of the IRS, which investigates violations of the Bank Secrecy Act, would not comment on the case except to say the IRS was the primary agency in the financial crimes task force that conducted the investigation. That task force also includes the Nevada Gaming Control Board and various other police agencies in Nevada.
Officials at the Westgate Las Vegas couldn't comment on specifics regarding the Oancea case. A spokesperson for the Wynn says it cooperates with law enforcement and follows federal procedures in handling large cash wagers.
According to Gregory Gemignani, a lawyer and gaming expert with Dickinson Wright, Oancea was likely caught by a computer. Sometime after the IRS received the relevant currency transaction reports from the casinos, software would have picked up that one name was recorded using to two or more Social Security numbers.
Gemignani said that ticket writers will ask the bettor a series of questions to fill out the currency transaction report form which then gets filed with the IRS 15 days after the transaction occurred.
He said it’s unlikely that the casinos caught Oancea because there’s no real way for someone to authenticate a Social Security number and, of course, government-issued identification can be forged. And although Oancea is well known in betting circles, Gemignani said, the odds of a ticket writer putting his face with a specific Social Security number are low.
Also, according to information in the indictment, Oancea for the most part used one incorrect Social Security number repeatedly at each casino.
“Based upon the information the indictment said he was giving, if the only thing different is the Social Security number, and this is just a guess, the names would keep matching up but the socials would vary,” Gemignani said. “Assuming they have fraud-detection programs at the IRS (scanning data from the currency transaction report forms) and you would think they would, that should be a pretty basic thing to pick up.”
CORRECTION: This version corrects the number of counts Oancea faces. | (April 20, 2017)