A former supervisor at the Miccosukee Tribe’s gaming complex was sent to prison Monday for a casino caper that churned out more than $5 million.
Lester Lavin was sentenced to just over four years in prison and his girlfriend, Anisleydi Vergel Hermida, 31, to six months for helping him launder his cut of the stolen money, prosecutors said. Lavin, 44, of Miami Beach, pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal the funds, commit computer fraud and money laundering. Hermida, 31, pleaded only to the laundering charge.
Last year, the couple and six others were charged in federal court with a scheme that involved tampering with electronic gaming machines at the West Miami-Dade casino, prosecutors said. The other defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.
Four former Miccosukee employees, including Lavin, a video supervisor, rigged the gaming machines to generate credit vouchers falsely showing winnings 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 charged 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. Lavin’s take was at least $654,150, the prosecutor said.
The four former Miccosukee employees named in the indictment are: Lavin, Michel Aleu, Yohander Jorrin Melhen, and Leonard Betancourt. The other defendants are: Hermida, Maria Del Pilar Aleu, Anisleydi Vergel Hermida, Milagros Marile Acosta Torres, and Yusmary Shriley Duran.
The investigation was led by the FBI with assistance from the Miccouskee Police Department.