Photo AP/Paul Connors
FEATURED IN INVESTIGATION
The first article in this series on robbery outlined the elements of these crimes, provided national statistics on rate of occurrence and weapons used, and discussed victimization data, robbery types, initial tactical response and follow-up investigative techniques.
This article and the next will feature a fictional casino robbery and the investigative steps taken to identify and apprehend the perpetrators. According to the National Gaming Association, there are 360 Indian gaming casinos in the United States operated by 220 federally recognized tribes. Thirty-four states allow casino gambling, and two of the largest casinos, Connecticut s Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, generate combined annual revenues of approximately $2 billion.
Although this case is entirely fictitious, it s not far-fetched. The more lucrative casinos have seemingly impenetrable security systems and have hired the best security experts money can buy. All engage in continuous worst-case scenario preplanning. But are there people out there with the resources, training and patience to properly case the joint and come up with a feasible plan to steal the money? You bet!
The robbery was conducted with military planning and precision. At precisely 0340 hrs, a fully equipped Connecticut Light & Power Company truck with three uniformed workmen pulled up to the intersection of I-395 & RT 141, roughly two hundred yards through some dense woods to the Mohegan Indian reservation. The men placed bright orange traffic cones on the street and pulled up a large circular steel grate in the middle of the road, and two of the men, carrying tool boxes, descended down a steel ladder built into the side of the cement structure to the landing below. Upon reaching the landing, the men turned left and walked exactly 135 feet along a wide cement tunnel and stopped at electrical conduit marked MN-142. Both men opened their toolboxes, removed their equipment and checked their watches.
At 0345 hrs two men entered each of the four main bathrooms located at diagonal angels off the Mohegan Sun casino floor. Each wore a small black L.L. Bean backpack and entered a stall. From the backpack, each man removed a specially modified Uzi 9mm submachine pistol along with several extra ammunition clips, four flash-bang grenades, several sets of flex cuffs, ear plugs, a pair of night-vision goggles and two red high-combustion highway flares. Each also took out a small radio receiver and clipped it to a utility belt just below a lightweight Kevlar bulletproof vest with titanium trauma plate, and then placed the tiny receiver attached by a filament thin wire to his ear. The backpack was neatly folded into a square and snapped to a special hook behind each man s utility belt. Each man then pulled on a black special-operations ski mask, checked his watch and waited.
At 0348 hrs, four men at slot machines near the entrance to the casino s security office located at the northeast corner of the casino simultaneously checked their watches. Another man, Arthur Fleming, had taken the escalator to the second floor of the casino where the various shops and some specialty restaurants were located. The second floor also featured a double-railed walkway offering a view of most of the casino floor below. Fleming took up a position on the walkway at the exact center of the casino. He removed a tiny radio receiver from the pack on his belt and placed it in his right ear. His pack also held a pair of night-vision goggles, a ski mask and ear plugs, and he carried an Uzi submachine pistol under his sweater. At exactly 0400 hrs Fleming spoke one word into his radio: Begin!
The Connecticut State Police, the towns of Ledyard and Stonington Police Departments, and a fleet of ambulances converged at the Mohegan Sun Indian casino. Agents from the Connecticut office of the FBI arrived at the scene within an hour. A thorough preliminary investigation was completed and then performed again. Federal agents were posted at airports, bus and train stations, and toll booths throughout New England.
Eight hours after the robbery, at 1200 hrs, a meeting was held in a conference room on the third floor of the Wolf s Den Hotel. Frank Kelleher, special agent in charge of the Northeast Bureau of the FBI, had taken command of the investigation. He was joined by the chief State s Attorney for the State of Connecticut, the State Police commissioner, and several local police chiefs. Fifty-seven other police officials from an assortment of law enforcement organizations were crowded into the room, and all were talking at once. After conferring briefly with some aides, Kelleher got up from the conference room table and, holding up both hands for silence, went over to a podium in the front of the room.
Okay everyone. Listen up. Here s what we have so far. At exactly 0400 hrs, the main electrical conduit to the Mohegan Sun Indian Reservation was cut. At the same time, two separate backup generator systems, located at different locations on the reservation, were sabotaged. All lights, computers, slot machines and so forth went dark. At the same time, approximately 8 10 heavily armed men wearing ski masks and night-vision goggles set off the casino s fire sprinkler system with high-intensity flares attached to long expandable poles. About twelve flash-bang grenades were detonated at strategic locations throughout the casino. Our best estimate is that between 3,000 5,000 patrons and employees were in the casino at that time.
So, one minute thousands of people are pulling slot machines and playing craps, and the next its pitch black, water cascades from the ceiling, loud explosions are heard, high-intensity lights flash in the darkness, and automatic weapons are fired. Several hundred rounds from automatic weapon were apparently fired into the casino s ceiling.
You can imagine what happened next. Thousands of people panicked and began running in all directions. Four people, all elderly, were trampled to death. Two additional people died from heart attacks, and numerous others suffered an assortment of broken bones and contusions. While this was happening, a young woman was taken into one of the bathrooms and raped by two men. He paused. Ah, at this time we think the sexual assault was a separate incident from the robbery and not directly connected.
At the exact moment the lights went off, Kelleher continued, four or five men entered the security complex armed with automatic weapons and wearing night goggles. Three security agents, one of whom was a retired Connecticut State Police Officer, were disarmed and flex cuffs used to tie their hands in the rear. Each was then injected with a substance rendering them unconscious. At this time, we estimate the men stole more than $600,000 in cash. They did not take any coins or chips.
Some of the video cameras along with other sophisticated surveillance equipment were made inoperable. The Connecticut Light & Power truck was left at the scene. It was stolen earlier in the evening. The forensic techs are poring over it, but so far haven t found any prints, fibers or anything else we can work with. Even the shell casings found at the casino were chemically processed for prints with negative results. In other words, other than the preliminary statements from witnesses and employees which remain on-going we have nadda, zip, nothing concrete to go on.
Kelleher came from behind the podium and stood in front of it. Make no mistake about it. This was a professional operation carried out with precision and expertise. Too many men were involved and too much could have gone wrong for it not to have been done by pros. Although they didn t shoot anyone, six people are dead, so this is now a multiple-murder investigation. Since it occurred on a federal Indian reservation, the Bureau has been asked by the Mohegan Tribal Council to assume responsibility and will be assisted by the Connecticut State Police. Does anyone have any questions?
The conference room door opened and detectives Anthony Capriati and his partner Paul Amaral entered the room. All eyes were on Detective Capriati, nicknamed the Cisco Kid. He didn t exactly blend in. The Cisco Kid was wearing his usual black suit, black shirt, black tie, black shoes and black fedora with a black feather stuck in the rim band. Although most of the local cops in the room knew the Kid, the FBI and State Police officers didn t and were all frowning in his direction. Seizing the moment, Agent Kelleher pointed in Capriati s direction and said, I invited Detective Capriati of the Hartford PD to join us in this investigation. He and his partner will be working directly for me.
We have formed an interagency task force, and each of you will find your assignments in the folders on the conference room table. Each team will work with an FBI supervisor who will coordinate all aspects of the investigation through me. Kelleher talked on for another 10 minutes, and then people began making their way out of the room and meeting in small teams to discuss their individual assignments.
The Cisco Kid Digs In
Eventually Kelleher made his way up to the Cisco Kid and, without so much as a hello, said, Well, what do you think? Capriati smiled and said, I don t know what to think yet. My gut tells me this is an inside job or at least someone on the inside provided a lot of information. These guys had to spend a lot of time planning this. There must be video surveillance tapes, maybe we ll get lucky. Kelleher shook his head. I ve got the best in the business to look at tape. Cisco, I want you to work the casino floor and see what you can come up with. Capriati nodded at Kelleher, and when he walked away said to Amaral, There s too much brass involved in this investigation. Let s get somewhere where we can concentrate on the basics. Many of the security guards working the casino are retired cops. Let s talk to them.
Four Months Later
The interagency task force had obtained a list of every employee, vendor and contractor associated with the Mohegan Sun and interviewed every single one. A list of casino patrons present during the day of the robbery was obtained through hotel records, individual player cards, charge cards used at restaurants and stores, and comps provided to people at the various table games. Although thousands of people were interviewed, the task force had made little progress in solving the case.
Though the central source of electricity to the casino and its backup generators had been sabotaged, it remains virtually impossible to make a casino go totally black or to completely shut down the type of sophisticated video surveillance equipment present in any major casino. After a great deal of work by FBI forensic technicians, videotapes of the entire robbery from several different angles were obtained. Even the activities of the robbery-team members off property in and out of the stolen truck, and on-property sabotaging the generators, had been analyzed. The forensic team had video footage of a 2005 Jeep Cherokee picking up the three robbery team members on the highway after the lights went out at the Mohegan Sun and the men abandoned the truck. Forensic specialists had enhanced all this video material, and hundreds of investigators had pored over it.
Four months after the robberies, Kelleher called a staff meeting with all supervisors assigned to the interagency task force. The room went dark as a wall-sized computer screen began displaying images to the men and woman gathered in the conference room. Kelleher narrated. As you know, counting the three guys from the CL&P truck, the driver of the getaway car, the teams that sabotaged the generators and the men inside the casino, there were 11 people involved in this robbery. He displayed a photographic image of each of the 11 men. You ll notice each of these men altered his appearance in some way. Wigs, hairpieces, nose, teeth and ear enhancements, makeup, ski masks and night-vision goggles have made positive identification improbable. What we do know is that all of these men range in age from early 20s 30, are all white, stand between 5'8" 6'2", and each team member s weight was in proportion to size. No fat people here. The weapons used were the type carried by the military, as was their body armor. What was left of the flares used to set off the sprinklers was recovered, but they re the common type used to warn motorists of accidents. In order to have the flares reach the high ceilings, they stuck them on folding tent poles, one of which was left behind. Kelleher picked up a 2' long metal tent pole from the conference room table and began unfolding it from its hinged ends. Unfolded, it s 10 feet long, and if you stick a flare on its point, that s another 8 inches. We ve done a lot of work, but have nothing to show for it.
The door to the conference room opened, and the Cisco Kid, Amaral, and Shirley Bascomb, a forensic genius from the Hartford Police Department, walked in. Kelleher said, This is a closed meeting for supervisors, Cisco! The Kid stopped in his tracks, all eyes in the room watching him. I ve got some information you might find interesting, Frank, Capriati said. Just file a report, Cisco. We ll give it due consideration, Kelleher replied. Capriati smiled, turned on his heel and left the room, closely followed by Amaral and Bascomb.
We re all done here. Let s go back to Hartford, Capriati said.
Jesus Christ, Cisco, Bascomb said, shaking her head. We can t just leave. We ve been assigned by the chief to this task force. All three of us will be back in a patrol unit before we get back to Hartford.
Capriati made a derisive gesture. They called us in, but won t let you look at the forensic stuff, won t share any information with me or Paul and have treated us like we re from another planet. Typical feds. All take, no give. We re all done here.
I don t know what we re going to tell the chief when we get back, Bascomb said. Kelleher will probably call him.
Capriati stopped. Paul, take Shirley back to Hartford. I ll be away for a couple of days. Kelleher and I have known each other for over 20 years. He won t call anyone.
Where are you going? Shirley asked.
Capriati said nothing. They both watched him get into his black Caddy and make his way out of the parking garage.
Capriati drove to New York City. On the way he made the phone call he didn t want to make to call in a favor he d been saving for five years. His estranged brother, Victor Capriati, was with the New York branch of the mafia. Capriati had arranged to have dinner with him in a small Italian restaurant. He parked in front, noted several bodyguards, was searched for a wire, gave up his gun and sat down at his brother s table. The two brothers started off in English, but quickly changed to Italian. After 30 minutes of exchanging family news, Capriati said, I need to know who did the job on the casino in Connecticut.
His brother looked away. You need to distance yourself from this, Cisco. It will bring you nothing but misery.
The Kid smiled. Vic, I need to know.
Victor leaned close. Each of us belongs to a brotherhood. I chose mine, you chose yours. If you want to know who did the casino, look within your own family.
Capriati was stunned. Victor was telling him cops had robbed the casino!
Seeing the look on Capriati s face, Victor said, I told you to stay away from it, but you never listen. I ll give you one more tip. Fish die by the mouth.
The Cisco Kid was depressed all the way back to Hartford. Maybe this would be a good time to retire, he thought.
The Kid pursues his new leads and, finally, solves the crime.
Two Sides of the Investigative Coin
Forensic Science: Forensic Video Analysis
Forensic science plays a key role in robbery investigation in the gathering and analysis of evidence on scene and back in the lab. In this case, analysis of surveillance video footage is a vital component. For up-to-date information about forensic video analysis and enhancement, including training, consult The Law Enforcement & Emergency Services Video Association (LEVA), a non-profit organization whose goal is to serve as a resource for improving the quality of video training and promoting the use of state-of-the-art, effective equipment in the law enforcement community. You can download LEVA s Best Practices Guide for Forensic Video Analysis, which contains guidelines to help agencies develop standard operating procedures in the evolving field of forensic video analysis. Go to www.leva.org, or call 817/249-1480.
The Human Component: Seasoned Detective
Does forensics alone solve cases? Is there a danger in an over-reliance on technology for today s investigator? Do not underestimate the value of a thorough understanding of human behavior and the use of well-honed people skills. The Cisco Kid represents the veteran detective who knows the bread and butter of his job takes place on the street, establishing connections and developing informants. Technology is a valuable tool, but in the end, crimes are solved by talented people.