A man is accused of posing as a Las Vegas hotel owner and convincing a casino employee to give him more than $1 million in bogus payments for fire safety equipment. The man, identified as Erik Gutierrez, 23, is charged with theft of more than $100,000.

The incident occurred on June 17, 2023, at the Circa Hotel & Casino in downtown Las Vegas. Gutierrez allegedly contacted the casino cage and claimed to be the hotel owner. He said that the fire department needed to do a check on the fire extinguishers and that they would need a payment for further safety devices.

The cage supervisor, who was not named, believed that she was talking to the hotel owner and texted with her manager to confirm. She then brought the money in four installments to the unknown person at different off-site locations. The payments totaled $314,000, $350,000, and $500,000, plus three smaller deposits, resulting in a loss of $1,170,000 to the hotel.

The employee later realized that she had been duped and contacted the police. Detectives tracked the vehicle involved in the suspected theft, finding its registered owner. Police suspect the car belonged to Gutierrez’s aunt with whom he lives. Police also surveilled the home, seeing a different car arrive and then leave with Gutierrez and another man in it. No money was found during a search of that vehicle.

Around the same time, police obtained a search warrant of the home, finding identification belonging to Gutierrez, a “large bag of U.S. currency bundled together with the name Circa written on the bundle,” and other items. Gutierrez was arrested at a gym on Sunday, June 18. Authorities later recovered nearly $850,000 but police did not know as of the writing of his arrest report last week who was given the outstanding $314,000.

This is an ongoing investigation and more details may emerge as it progresses.

How did the con job work?

The con job was able to work because the casino employee believed that she was talking to the hotel owner. This was likely due to the fact that Gutierrez was able to provide the employee with the hotel owner’s name, phone number, and email address. He may have also claimed to be calling from the hotel’s office.

What can casinos do to prevent similar incidents?

There are a number of things that casinos can do to prevent similar incidents from happening. These include:

  • Ensuring that employees are properly trained on how to identify and avoid scams.
  • Implementing stricter security measures, such as requiring two-factor authentication for all financial transactions.
  • Creating a culture of transparency and accountability, where employees feel comfortable reporting suspicious activity.

What can you do to protect yourself from being scammed?

There are a number of things that you can do to protect yourself from being scammed. These include:

  • Be wary of anyone who asks you to send money or provide personal information over the phone or email.
  • Verify the identity of anyone who claims to be from a legitimate company before providing them with any information.
  • Never click on links in emails or text messages from people you don’t know.
  • Be aware of the latest scams and how to avoid them.

If you think that you have been scammed, you should contact the police immediately. You should also report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC can help you to recover your money and prevent others from being scammed.