21 Jan

Free Slots Play Conspiracy at PA Casino lands Trio in Court, 2 Jailed

For the average slots player, conspiring a plot to dupe a casino out of hundreds of thousands of dollars is virtually impossible – at least not without the ability to inconspicuously infiltrate a slot machine’s computer software. But when you throw a high-ranking employee of the casino into the mix, the odds fall heavily into the cheaters’ favor.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs CasinoThat’s exactly what happened at one Pennsylvania casino, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, PA. According to news reports, a trio of tricksters that included two former employees – a cocktail waitress and casino vice president – and a regular visitor to the establishment, teamed up to illicit $478,100 in free slots play, turning that into $418,793 worth of winnings; nearly $900k in all.

Media outlet PennLive told the story of how these three swindlers got away with their deceitful gambling plot for nearly a full year.

From May 2, 2014 to April 4, 2015, the casino’s Vice President Robert Joseph Pellegrini (50), cocktail waitress Rochelle Poszeluznyj (37) and frequent player Mark Joseph Heltzel (51), worked together in the free slots play conspiracy.

How They Pulled It Off

Ms. Poszeluznyj’s role was to discreetly collect the Player Card Numbers and PIN Numbers from customers as she made her away around the slots area serving beverages. She would then deliver that information to Pellegrini, who abused his high-ranking position by creating duplicate player cards, and infusing them with free slots play credits.

The duplicate cards were then given to Heltzel, who would play through the free credits on the casino’s slots machines, and then cash out any winnings derived from them, splitting the profits amongst the three.

Investigators finally caught wind of the conspiracy when they received a tip from a table games dealer who also worked at the PA casino. It didn’t take police long to follow the trail and pile up enough evidence to charge the trio with 177 counts that include criminal conspiracy, theft, identity theft, computer trespassing, winning by fraud, and misapplying trusted property.

Free Slots Play Conspirators Face the Judge

On Wednesday morning, Poszeluznyj and Heltzel appeared before Luzerne County’s Magisterial District Judge Joseph D. Spagnuolo Jr. for arraignment. Spagnuolo wasted no time in setting Poszeluznyj’s bail at an unsecured $100,000, meaning only 10% is required for her release. But when it was time for Hetzel’s arraignment, things got a bit hairy.

Spagnuolo demanded Heltzel’s bail be set at $500,000 cash, (no option to pay 10% upfront). Heltzel’s attorney, Demetrius Fannick, erupted as his client was prepared for relocation to the Luzerne County Jail.

“It was my understanding that we had an agreement,” Fannick told the judge, claiming his client had agreed to a $150,000 unsecured bail at the casino’s state police office earlier that morning. He claimed Heltzel had even withdrawn cash from the bank to cover the expected bail.

But that mattered little to Judge Spagnuolo, who considered the defendant a probable flight risk. “Your objection has been heard,” he said just before finalizing the ruling with his next statement and a pound of the gavel. “Bail is set at $500,000.”

As for the casino’s former VP, Robert Joseph Pellegrini, his arraignment took place just hours ago on Thursday morning. According to The Times Tribune, Pellegrini was also ordered to pay bail of $500,000 cash, and is now sitting comfortably in a jail cell at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility.