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Man scams casinos including MGM Detroit by turning up in elaborate disguises

Senior Reporter

Stealing money from a casino is quite a challenge, and showing up with a gun to do so will quickly land you in jail. However, there are some creative people who need no weapon to do such a thing. A man from Harper Woods named John Christopher Colletti used his artistic skills to steal nearly $100,000 from VIP casino patrons by using quite literal impersonations and using the guests’ personal information to collect cash at several casinos, including MGM Detroit. 

Man scams casinos including MGM Detroit by turning up in elaborate disguises
This image is not a real photo of John Colletti. Image: pixabay.com

There’s nothing entertaining about stealing money from people, but a 56-year-old John Christopher Colletti managed to prompt quite a chuckle by running a type of scam that is usually found only in cartoons. Using prosthetic masks, various outfits, and illegally obtained personal information, he managed to steal $125,740 from VIP patrons at several gambling facilities, across two separate states. 

The fascinating portion of the story is that the con artist managed to collect the personal details of 300 patrons. Colletti would hack into VIP guests’ bank accounts and used Global Payments Gaming Services kiosks at various casinos to collect thousands of dollars per visit.

Before entering each facility, Colletti would disguise himself in realistic prosthetic face masks, hats, glasses, surgical masks and wore outfits that matched each look. Even though he was already in his late 50s, he often showed up in a face mask that added at least 20 years to his appearance and even used a cane as a prop. But creativity has no limits - he also completed these transactions dressed as a woman, and being that Colletti didn’t get caught at the time, it’s safe to say he pulled it off quite well. 

The man used his hacking skills to learn first and last names, driver’s license numbers, and the last four digits of their Social Security to complete the scams successfully. Perhaps ‘hacking’ is a stretch - Coletti simply purchased the info online. This information allowed him to successfully access each bank account without suspicion (using fake IDs with victims’ names). Thankfully, not all of the illegally obtained information was put to use, as it was later found that Colletti had targeted hundreds of people for this unique scam. 

All things eventually come to an end. Colletti’s criminal adventure came to a sudden halt in 2020 as the costume lover was arrested at the Prairie Band Casino and Resort in Kansas. The man slipped up and exposed himself by completing several withdrawals in a row. That raised red flags and sent the elaborate scheme down the drain. However, this wasn’t the first time the con artist unintentionally rang the alarms. Colletti was once spotted on a security camera getting into a cab outside of the casino facility that took him to Pegasus Taverna Restaurant, where he would change back into regular clothes.

Back in May of 2019, MGM Grand Casino investigators discovered that ten guests were missing money, amounting to $98,840 altogether. Michigan State Police Gaming Section was notified of the incident and deemed Colletti as the primary suspect. 

Once authorities began a full investigation, they discovered multiple prosthetic face masks, 83 driver’s license cards, a counterfeit $100 bill, surgical masks, and “ books on how to get away with committing crime.” At that point, there was more than enough evidence to throw Colletti behind bars, and he was finally sentenced to four years in federal prison in July 2021.

Four years of prison won’t make up for the losses casino guests suffered, so he will also have to pay $125,740 in restitution to GPGS.

“This defendant went to extraordinary lengths to hide his identity in order to steal others' identities and money... commend the work of the FBI agents for tracking Colletti down and helping bring him to justice.” Acting U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin stated. 

Colletti had his fingers crossed for the minimum sentence of 24 months, but the weight of his actions called for a heftier punishment. 

“Mr. Colletti recognizes the wrongfulness of his conduct and acknowledges that a criminal violation is always serious...This was a non-violent crime. In many cases involving fraud or theft of government funds, for instance, a (prison) sentence is not even imposed,” his court-appointed attorney, Stacey Studnicki, wrote in court documents. 

Colletti’s attorney also attempted to play a “he just went through a rough time” card, butProsecutors spared no mercy and decided on 51 months, emphasizing that he knew precisely what he was doing. The costumes, masks, and mounds of personal data were no accident.

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