For his involvement in a baccarat cheating scandal which took two Maryland casinos for over $1m, an ex-casino dealer was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.
News came out in September 2018, that Ming Zhang, a dealer at MGM’s National Harbor casino in Maryland, had been accused with multiple felonies for his role in a baccarat cheating scam. The following month Zhang reached a deal with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to plotting to transport stolen funds.
Though Zhang faced up to five years in prison, last month the Department of Justice announced that he would spend 18 months in prison and three years of supervised release afterwards. Moreover, Zhang was ordered to repay the funds he was involved in stealing.
The scam started in September 2017 according to the DOJ, when Zhang and ‘co-conspirator A’ – a man known elsewhere as Chinese national Chenguang Ni – plotted a scam in which Zhang wouldn’t shuffle all the decks of cards which would be fed into the ‘shoe’ from which players and Zhang would be dealt their baccarat hands.
As reported by calvinayre.com, Zhang later told prosecutors that Ni found a way to use his phone to take photos of the decks of cards which were spread out across the table to confirm players that it was a valid deck before being loaded into the shoe. Then Ni would sporadically steal away to the bathroom to go through the images, while other associates Ni had employed would take his place.
Ni and these associates would bet small amounts while waiting for the unshuffled cards to make their appearance, then they significantly increased their bets. The scam was exposed after Ni and the other players went on a big lucky streak, winning 18 of 21 hands, including 14 straight wins, in a game in which the odds are basically a coin-flip.
All in all, the scammers bagged more than $850k from National Harbor and almost $200k from a second unnamed casino. Ni was sentenced to 13 months imprisonment and will possibly face exile once his prison term is over.
Over the years, baccarat frauds have come up with some clever schemes. A gang conspired with a Macao casino worker in 2012, to switch a legit card shoe with one which had a built-in tiny camera that read the cards as they were shuffled and sent the slo-mo video to the plotters.
A similar shoe shuffle occurred at South Korea’s largest casino Kangwon Land that same year, while a Philippine casino was targeted by gamblers with tiny cameras hidden up their sleeves, the year before. All these fraudsters were finally exposed by casino security, whose surveillance usually proves capable of finding scams, even if it may be after the incident.