A casino con man who tried to escape abroad after being arrested for cheating at poker and using false IDs is beginning a 18-month prison sentence.
Mihai Lacatos was picked-up in an airport departure lounge after being caught using a specific cheating technique known as ‘card making’ during three-card poker at the Playboy Club in Mayfair.
It was one of several casinos that the 62-year-old unemployed Romanian national struck at in the UK last year.
The method involved him using slight of hand to bend specific cards at the poker table, so that he would later be able to tell what the dealer and other players had been dealt, giving him a significant advantage, the court heard. He would spend hours playing at one table so that he could dent the centre of as many cards as he wanted. He was so good at it that his cheating initially went unnoticed.
Between January 8 and January 15 last year, Lacatos used false IDs to enter the Playboy Club and cheated the casino out of £43,400 using this technique.
Detectives from the Met’s Gaming Unit began investigating after they were contacted by Caesars Entertainment, which owns the Playboy Club, in January 2014. They circulated his image to casinos across the UK and he was arrested on March 31 at the Rubicon Casino in Northampton after staff recognised him.
Officers seized £1,485 from him under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) and he was taken into custody.
He was subsequently bailed to return to Charing Cross Police Station on May 13 but did not do so. While on bail, he continued to commit fraud in at least three more casinos.
He was finally caught by police at the departure lounge at Luton Airport on November 20.
Officers seized approximately £3,000 from him under POCA.
The conviction, at Southwark Crown Court on Monday (March 16), was the Met’s first conviction for ‘card marking’.
Detective Sergeant Claire Hutcheon, of the MPS Gaming Unit, said: “Lacatos spent hours marking cards because he thought he could get away with it, but the gamble didn’t pay off in the long run.
“We work closely with the casino industry to stop even the most dedicated cheats, like Lacatos.”
Lacatos was charged on November 20 and pleaded guilty a week later to a string of charges relating to false identity documents and fraud stretching back to 2008.