DETROIT – A Michigan man pleaded guilty on Tuesday in federal court for his role in creating an elaborate fraud scheme involving prosthetic masks.
John Christopher Colletti, 56, pleaded guilty to electronic and identity fraud over a conspiracy that allowed him to defraud more than $ 125,000 from unsuspecting players at several casinos in two states. He faces up to a maximum of 20 years in prison for wire fraud and a minimum of two years for identity fraud.
His modus operandi included wearing a prosthetic face mask that made him look like an older white man before heading to casino kiosks to withdraw thousands of cash. In other cases, Colletti wore hats, glasses and surgical masks for disguise, according to court documents.
“Colletti has stolen the identities of dozens of innocent people, involving them all in his criminal scheme,” Timothy Waters, special agent in charge of the local FBI office in Detroit, said in a statement. “The impacts of identity theft are serious and far-reaching for victims, and the FBI will work hard to ensure that anyone who engages in this type of conduct is held accountable.”
Colletti first caught the attention of investigators in May 2019 when 10 cases of identity theft were discovered at MGM Grand Casino Detroit, for a total of $ 98,840. State investigators established a common suspect by examining CCTV footage.
In one case, Colletti was seen approaching the MGM Grand Detroit on foot wearing a prosthetic mask, blue jacket, dark visor cap, blue jeans and sunglasses on top of his visor cap and wearing a messenger type bag. In just 36 minutes, he was able to complete 15 transactions totaling $ 30,000 at various kiosks inside the casino.
After his transactions, Colletti is seen taking a cab outside the casino into Greektown, then going to a restaurant and using his restroom, court documents show. About 10 minutes later, security footage shows him leaving the restaurant without a disguise – instead, dressed in a white t-shirt, blue jeans and a black plastic bag.
Colletti was arrested in Mayetta, Kansas on March 12, 2020, for identity theft at the Prairie Band Casino after security footage showed him – wearing a straw hat, glasses and using a walker – withdrawing $ 20,000 , requiring him to present his Social Security number for reporting purposes. When approached by security, who told him to go to the cashier’s cage, Colletti went to the bathroom instead and removed his disguise.
After leaving the casino, security found clothing, a walker, a Nissan car key, two Michigan driver’s licenses, and about $ 11,000 in cash in the washroom. The licenses contained the information of true Michigan residents with altered photos and sticky notes on the back with the Social Security numbers and phone numbers of the victims.
To operate casino kiosks, which allow users to redeem tickets, break bills, and process jackpots, players must insert their driver’s license, then enter the last four digits of their social security number and the last four digits of their phone number. According to investigators, Colletti targeted VIP Preferred Program casino customers as victims by purchasing their personal information over the Internet and then having fraudulent driver’s licenses manufactured on behalf of the victims.
Following his arrest, a search warrant was obtained and executed by tribal police from the Potawatomi Grassland Group on Colletti’s rental car, a Nissan Versa. Inside the vehicle, they found four prosthetic face masks, USB sticks, 83 driver’s licenses, 14 multi-name insurance cards, six open water diver certification cards, two staff ID cards from Binghamton University, 19 cards from players from various casinos – the majority from MGM Grand Casino.
The individual victims were reimbursed by Global Payments Gaming Services, the manufacturer of the casino terminals targeted by Colletti. As part of his plea deal, Colletti will have to pay the full $ 125,740 to GPGS.
Colletti’s sentencing is scheduled for July 7.
Contact Miriam Marini at [email protected]