Despite plea for leniency, third member of Bellagio craps cheating scheme added to Nevada’s Black Book

Despite plea for leniency, third member of Bellagio craps cheating scheme added to Nevada’s Black Book

  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
December 21, 2018 5:02 AM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
  • Other

A former minor league baseball player who went to prison for his part in a conspiracy to cheat the Bellagio in Las Vegas out of more than $1 million between 2012 and 2014 contested his planned inclusion on the Nevada List of Excluded Persons Thursday.

He struck out swinging in front of the Nevada Gaming Commission.

Jeffrey Martin, who pleaded guilty to one count of theft and one count of cheating at gambling in 2016 and spent time in prison, appeared without an attorney and represented himself.

The Gaming Commission, meeting in Las Vegas, voted unanimously to add Martin as the 35th person currently listed in what is commonly referred to as the Black Book. Listing makes it a crime for that person to enter a Nevada gaming establishment.

Technically, the only way to be removed from the List is by death, although Alamo told Martin that Nevada gaming law allows a person to petition the commission for removal. No one has ever petitioned successfully to have their name removed.

Martin, who is parole and was wearing an ankle monitor, told the Gaming Commission he decided to fight the inclusion because he is a recovering compulsive gambler, which was the reason that he participated in the cheating scheme that took place at the Bellagio’s craps tables.

“From a young age, I had a gambling problem,” Martin said, adding that he wasn’t contesting his guilt. He said being able to go into a casino – and not gamble – is part of his recovery from compulsive gambling.

Martin said he has undergone treatment and continues to attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings.

“I made one bad decision. I was caught in a disease and it was an opportunity. I’m very sorry for what I did,” Martin said, adding that his paying restitution for the crime.

While commissioners showed some sympathy toward Martin, they told him that he met the conditions raised by the Attorney General’s office.

“It’s a penalty, but it’s penalty that is needed to protect the gaming industry,” said Gaming Commissioner Philip Pro, a former federal judge. “We would be sending the wrong message to the community if you weren’t included on the list.”

Commissioners Sandra Morgan and Deborah Fuetsch both commended Martin for attending the hearing.

“You had a lot of courage to show up,” Fuetsch said. “Thank you for showing up. You seem to be heading in the right direction.”

Martin said he did not deserve being characterized as having “notorious and unsavory reputation,” the language used when placing a person on the List. Pro seemed to agree, saying the term best described others on the List, such as mobster Tony Spilotro, who was in the Black Book until he was found murdered in an Indiana cornfield in 1986.

Morgan, when she made the motion for Martin’s inclusion, left off the term “notorious and unsavory reputation,” which caused a five-minute debate with the Attorney General’s office. Afterward, the description was still left off the motion.

“I knew it was and uphill battling going in,” Martin said in his closing remarks. “But I wanted to speak my piece. Whatever the outcome is, I will accept it and I will move forward.”

Last month, Anthony Granito and James Cooper, who also went to prison for their role in cheating the Bellagio at craps, didn’t contest their inclusion on the list.

Former Bellagio craps dealer Mark Branco – who was Marin’s brother-in-law – is the only one of the four not currently on the List. He received the harshest prison sentence — up to a decade behind bars — for his role in orchestrating phony bets at the dice game.

The cheating ring concocted a scheme that used phantom “hop” bets. Cooper and Branco were Bellagio craps dealers and Granito and Martin were the players involved in the action. When Cooper and Branco were at a craps table, Granito and Martin would step up and mutter confusing bets amid last-second activity before the roll of the dice. They’d win no matter what the outcome.

In total, the players and dealers stole roughly $1.2 million, according to testimony by Nevada gaming agents at Thursday’s hearing.

Martin, who played minor league baseball for the Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds organizations between 1995 and 2002, said at his court sentencing in Las Vegas in 2016 he was “ashamed,” “heartbroken” and “remorseful.”

Martin told the Gaming Commission he was not involved in the planning of the scheme. However, according to his plea agreement, he admitted to participating 20 times in the cheating operation.

Martin worked for the Las Vegas Baseball Academy and coached young ballplayers in his own organization called Las Vegas Curve.

“I’m ashamed for the destruction this did to my family,” Martin said. “I felt bad for the kids I coached. I had to explain to them and their families that what I did was not okay.”

At his sentencing in 2016, Martin’s attorney said his client struggled with a gambling addiction since he was a child, but “never participated in any sports gambling while he was involved in playing professional baseball.”

Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.