The District Court of Clark County has sentenced a Las Vegas casino scammer to a minimum of one year in prison for his role in a con job that cost Circa Resort and Casino over $1.1 million. Judge Jasmin Lilly-Spells warned that Erik Gutierrez Martinez could face up to 96 months in prison if he violates the terms of his probation after release.
Martinez was arrested in September by the Las Vegas Metro Police and charged with two felony charges, including theft of over $100,000, according to records reported by NBC Affiliate WFLA. The 24-year-old pleaded guilty to a single count of theft from Circa, a Category B felony punishable by up to twenty years in prison, but was sentenced to a year in jail.
The sentencing brings to a close a months-long investigation into a criminal enterprise that successfully conned casinos out of over $1 million in cash.
Part of a Large-Scale Multi-Million Fraud Ring
Prosecutors allege Martinez was part of a larger organized group focused on scamming casinos in Nevada and across the U.S. Although Circa is at the center of the case, he is reported to have targeted other properties including Eureka Casino Resort in Mesquite and Golden Nugget Casino in Laughlin.
The multi-prong scheme is reported to have scammed Nevada gaming establishments out of more than $1 million. While Martinez pled guilty only to the Circa theft, investigators believe he was a ‘bag man’ assisting in moving funds obtained through deception.
Circa Lost Over $1.1 Million to the Scam
In mid-June, Las Vegas Metro police responded to reports of a possible fraud at Circa Hotel & Casino in downtown. An individual, who later was identified to be Martinez, had contacted the property’s cage claiming to be the resort and casino owner, requesting $320,000 for an urgent fire department payment.
The cage supervisor, believing they spoke with the legitimate owner, delivered funds totaling over $1.1 million to off-site locations at the direction of the impersonator. Payments were made across four separate installments to different addresses.
Through four transactions, $314,000, $350,000, $500,000 and additional smaller amounts were lost to the scam before its discovery. A thorough subsequent investigation identified 24-year-old Erik Martinez as the perpetrator.
Martinez’s Arrest and Funds Recovery
Through diligent investigative work, detectives gathered key leads that led them to the primary suspect. They traced a car seen leaving Circa Resort and Casino on the day of the reported incident to a relative of Martinez.
During further surveillance of this family member’s residence, police observed the 24-year-old casino scammer and another man departing in a separate vehicle. No viable evidence was found upon searching the car.
On Saturday, June 17th, Las Vegas Metro police searched the aunt’s home and discovered identification documents linking Gutierrez to the casino property. Even more significantly, they found a large sum of bundled cash concealed within a bag labeled with the name of Circa Resort and Casino.
The search provided compelling evidence tying Martinez to the Circa Casino scam, and he was apprehended the following day while working out at a gym. The unidentified man who was with him in the vehicle the previous day was not arrested.
Authorities later recovered nearly $850,000 believed to be from the Circa theft, but the whereabouts of the $314,000 check remains unknown.
The Scammer also Hit Casinos in Mesquite and Laughlin
Nevada authorities have uncovered evidence that Gutierrez had also targeted other gaming establishments through Circa-style scams. Court records indicate he is implicated in frauds perpetrated against the Eureka Casino Resort in Mesquite and Golden Nugget in Laughlin. Both incidents involved impersonation of company representatives supposedly owed payment.
Records show the Eureka Casino Resort theft unfolded on March 2nd after Martinez, operating under an alias ‘Michael Gunther’ convinced a cage supervisor to transport a sizable cash payment meant for a purported hand sanitizer supplier. What began as a simple hand-over soon spiraled into multiple questionable deposits and exchanges.
First directing the supervisor to a bitcoin kiosk, Martinez then had the remainder handed over to an unknown accomplice in a public parking lot. Careful tracing of digital transactions and physical evidence like clothing helped solidify Martinez’s connection to these imposter scams.
In Laughlin, similar tactics were reportedly employed around the same time against the Golden Nugget Casino. Though scant details were released by the police, identical phone numbers and names indicated the involvement of Martinez, or potentially his casino scammer associates.
When apprehending Martinez for the Circa theft, police discovered he still possessed the distinctive hoodie worn during the Mesquite incident. Combined with matching phone numbers and names utilized, investigators established compelling links between Martinez and the additional swindles.
At his sentencing hearing, Martinez apologized for his actions and said that he was “stupid” for committing the crime. Prosecutors asked for a prison sentence, but the judge decided to give Martinez a suspended sentence.
The judge said that he was taking into account Martinez’s age, his lack of a criminal record, and his cooperation with the authorities. The judge also said that he believed that Martinez was remorseful for his crime.
Little Known About the Mastermind Behind the Casino Scamming Ring
While Martinez was the primary individual charged and sentenced, law enforcement sources indicate he was working under the direction of another individual, believed to be the mastermind orchestrating the casino fraud ring.
Little is known about this shadowy figure, but investigators believe they are still operating and may have targeted other gaming establishments. Ongoing analysis of banking records and call data may provide new leads to identify accomplices.
The Martinez case is a reminder that casinos are still vulnerable to scams, even in the age of sophisticated security systems. In light of the recent scam, casinos across Nevada have taken steps to strengthen their security measures. This includes implementing new team communication systems and approval workflows for large cash transactions, as well as installing high-definition surveillance cameras with facial recognition capabilities.