In a dramatic turn of events, 24-year-old Erik Gutierrez Martinez, the mastermind behind a sophisticated scam that netted over $1 million from the Circa Hotel and Casino in Downtown Las Vegas, has pleaded guilty to one count of theft exceeding $100,000. This high-stakes caper unfolded as Martinez posed as the hotel’s owner, Derek Stevens, in an audacious plot that captivated Sin City.
The elaborate scam came to light when police launched an investigation in June following a call from Circa Hotel and Casino. An unidentified individual had impersonated Derek Stevens over the phone and demanded substantial sums of money, claiming it was an emergency payment for the fire department’s “safety devices.”
Remarkably, this audacious ruse succeeded not once but multiple times. A supervisor, convinced that she was communicating with the hotel owner, hand-delivered payments totaling $1.2 million, which included transactions of $314,000, $350,000, $500,000, and three smaller deposits to various locations across Las Vegas. The supervisor even texted her manager and met with the supposed attorney of Derek Stevens.
Police eventually traced the vehicle involved in the theft back to Martinez’s aunt. A subsequent search of Martinez’s residence uncovered a significant amount of cash, including Circa-branded currency straps. On June 18, Martinez was apprehended at his gym, and nearly $850,000 of the stolen funds were recovered, leaving $314,000 still unaccounted for.
Circa CEO Derek Stevens expressed his sentiments at the time, stating, “Although I love a good PR story, this isn’t one of them.”
While Martinez is believed to have targeted other casinos, including the Eureka Casino in Mesquite and the Golden Nugget in Laughlin, the plea deal only holds him accountable for the Circa case.
In a separate incident at the Eureka Casino in March, a supervisor was instructed by Martinez to take $250,000 to a Las Vegas gas station, purportedly to settle a debt for hand sanitizer. He instructed her to deposit $15,000 in a Bitcoin kiosk and then deliver the remaining cash at a gas station.
Alerted by the casino, the employee returned with the money, narrowly avoiding a costly mistake. Court documents reveal that a fellow casino employee advised her that her duties did not involve “handling payments from vendors or suppliers.”
As Martinez faces the consequences of his actions, the elaborate casino scams serve as a stark reminder of the ever-present challenges in the world of high-stakes gaming and the lengths some individuals are willing to go to achieve their illicit goals.
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