South Florida

Former Miccosukee casino workers charged with ripping off $5 million from gaming machines

Miccosukee tribe’s West Miami-Dade resort and casino.
Miccosukee tribe’s West Miami-Dade resort and casino.

The casino caper churned out more than $5 million, the feds say.

Now, eight Miami-Dade suspects have been charged with stealing that jackpot from the Miccosukee tribe’s casino in an alleged computer fraud scheme involving former workers accused of tampering with gaming machines, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Four former employees of the Miccosukee tribe’s casino in West Miami-Dade tampered with electronic gaming machines to generate credit vouchers that they then exchanged for cash at ATM machines on the casino floor, according to an indictment. They also converted some vouchers to cash through cashiers at the casino.

The 63-count indictment charges the eight defendants with conspiracies involving computer fraud, embezzlement and money laundering.

Here’s how the scheme worked: The four casino workers generated false “coin-in” amounts on the electronic gaming machines, including video slots, which resulted in “fraudulent” credit vouchers for the same totals, the indictment says.

Mechanically, the four workers connected one end of a wire to a device inside a gaming machine “that would recognize coins.” They then connected the other end of the wire to another metal surface inside the cabinet that would cause the machine to generate the coin-in amounts.

To erase their tracks, the indictment says, they “conducted a ‘hard reset’ or ‘RAM clear’ of the [gaming machine], which would delete the history of the false and fraudulent ‘coin-in’ amounts from the [machine].”

The total take was $5.3 million, according to federal prosecutor Dwayne Williams. The alleged computer fraud scheme lasted from Jan. 29, 2011 to May 27, 2015.

All eight of the defendants committed money laundering by taking the stolen casino funds and buying real estate, investment properties, vehicles and college savings plans in Florida, the indictment says.

The four former Miccosukee employees named in the indictment are: Michel Aleu, 41, Lester Lavin, 43, Yohander Jorrin Melhen, 42, and Leonard Betancourt, 46. The other defendants are: Maria Del Pilar Aleu, 39, Anisleydi Vergel Hermida, 30, Milagros Marile Acosta Torres, 33, and Yusmary Shriley Duran, 40.

Lavin and Hermida had their first appearances in federal court on Tuesday, and they are scheduled for arraignment on Aug. 13.

The other six defendants are expected to have their first court appearances on Thursday or later.

The investigation was led by the FBI with assistance from the Miccouskee Police Department.