A local casino dealer was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for his involvement in a cheating baccarat scam that took two casinos in Maryland for more than $1 m.
News emerged in September 2018 that Ming Zhang, a dealer at MGM’s Maryland National Harbor casino, had been charged with multiple felonies for his role in a baccarat cheating scheme. The following month, Zhang reached an agreement with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to conspiring to move the stolen funds.
Although Zhang faced up to five years in prison, the Justice Department last month revealed that he would spend eighteen months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Zhang was also forced to pay back the money that he helped steal.
The fraud started in September 2017, according to the DOJ, when Zhang and’ co-conspiratorA’–a man elsewhere known as Chinese national Chenguang Ni–cooked up a scam in which Zhang wouldn’t shuffle all the card decks that would be loaded into the ‘shoe’ from which players and Zhang would be dealing their baccarat hands.
Zhang later told prosecutors that Ni had created a way to use his phone to take pictures of the card decks spread across the table to reassure players that it was a legitimate deck before loading into the shoe. Ni would then periodically steal away to the bathroom to study the images, while Ni had recruited other co-conspirators to keep his seat warm.
Ni and those other conspirators would wager small amounts while waiting for the unshuffled cards to make their appearance, then their wagers would be dramatically boosted. The scam was rumbled after Ni went on a huge lucky streak, taking 18 out of 21 games, including 14 straight wins, in a game where the odds are simply a coin-flip.
In the end, National Harbor’s scammers netted over $850k and a from second unspecified casino nearly $200k. Ni has been sentenced to 13 months in prison and is likely to face deportation once his gaol term has ended.
Over the years, baccarat cheats have built some ingenious schemes. In 2012, a gang met with a casino worker from Macao to swap a legit card shoe with one that had a built-in miniature camera reading the cards as they were shuffled and transmitting the slo-mo footage to the conspirators.
That same year, in South Korea’s largest casino Kangwon Land, a similar shoe switcheroo occurred, while the year before they saw a Philippine casino attacked by gamblers with miniature cameras covering their sleeves. Finally all of these scammers were rumbled by casino defence, whose oversight typically proves capable of detecting scams, even if it may be after the fact.