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World & Nation

Steal $5,000 chips from the Bellagio? Not so easy, it turns out

LAS VEGAS -- Forget about Lady Luck and all that stuff. This idea was just dumb.

In a heist plan straight out of “Oceans 11" -- or “Jackass” -- 24-year-old Michael Belton entered the high roller’s area of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in May with a brazen, even bone-headed, plan to steal high-value gaming chips.

That’s an environment sealed off tighter than a maximum-security prison, with eye-in-the-sky surveillance and pit bosses with looks to kill.

Las Vegas police say Belton, of Nuevo, Calif., and a second man, known only as Carlos, donned black wigs and sunglasses and -- wielding a can of pepper spray -- entered the high-stakes blackjack area about 10:45 p.m. on May 19.

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Carlos sprayed the dealer and the gamblers surrounding the table as Belton snatched 23 $5,000 chips, as many as he could carry, worth $115,000, according to a police report.

The plan called for the pair to high-tail it out of the casino -- apparently ignoring all the witnesses there -- and rendezvous at a Mandalay Bay hotel room, where they would hand off the chips to a third accomplice. The third man would claim to be a high roller and exchange the stolen chips for cash; the men would then split the money three ways, the report said.

But the heist soon fell like a house of cards: Three people tackled Belton, spilling the chips onto the floor. Carlos escaped.

Belton pleaded guilty last week to robbery and conspiracy. District Court Hearing Master Melisa De La Garza set a sentencing hearing for Sept. 26, when Belton faces two to 21 years in prison. Belton remains jailed at the Clark County Detention Center on $60,000 bail.

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The two other men allegedly involved in the scheme are still at large, court and jail records show.

Belton told detectives he came to Las Vegas after learning of a job opportunity repossessing cars. The other two men told him of their plan to rob the Bellagio, and Belton joined the caper because he was broke and his grandparents were sick, the report said.

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john.glionna@latimes.com


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