August 30, 2014

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Expert accused of cheating high-rollers in poker game

Helen Kennedy
New York Daily News
   An internationally known expert in exposing casino cheats has been arrested in Atlantic City, N.J. — on charges of fleecing high-rollers in a high-tech crooked poker game.
   Players in town for last month’s $1.7 million poker tournament at the Borgata hotel were lured to a private game in a luxurious upstairs room rigged with miniature hidden cameras aimed at their cards.
   Authorities said one of the four conspirators whispered what the players were holding to an accomplice at the table wearing a teeny earpiece. Meanwhile, another henchman was running the odds on each deal of the cards on a laptop behind the scenes.
   “It was a high-tech cheating scheme. They were basically using spy equipment,” said Peter Aseltine, spokesman for the New Jersey attorney general’s office.
   Just to cover themselves, the scammers went old-fashioned and marked the cards, too, he said.
   Among the four men arrested was Steve Forte, 51, a famed Las Vegas sleight-of-hand artist and casino cheating consultant.
   Forte’s clients include most of the major Las Vegas Strip casinos, gaming halls from Aruba to Macau, numerous law enforcement agencies and TV shows.
   The author of a classic textbook, “Casino Games Protection,” he published “Poker Protection — Cheating and the World of Poker” just this year.
   Forte could not be reached but a friend and fellow casino consultant cautioned against rushing to judgment.
   “I’ve been doing this 33 years and over the years, you could have caught me at places I shouldn’t have been if I heard about a new cheating method. If the cops broke down the door, it would have looked bad, but I wasn’t there to steal anything,” said George Joseph of Worldwide Casino Consulting, author of “Why Shouldn’t A Woman Wear Red in a Casino?”
   Also arrested were Stephen Phillips, 52, of Las Vegas; James Calvin Harrison, 41, of Duluth, Minn., and high-stakes poker player Joseph Ingargiola, 50, of Playa del Rey, Calif.
   All were charged with conspiracy and using cheating devices in a theft. They were released on bail.
   News of the June 7 arrests by the New Jersey State Police Organized Crime Bureau was kept quiet because the probe is ongoing, Aseltine said.