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April 25, 2014

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Man has chance encounter on Internet with alleged ‘Biker Bandit’

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COURTESY PHOTO

Anthony M. Carleo, who police say is the Biker Bandit who stole $1.5 million in casino chips from the Bellagio, sent pictures of the booty to Matthew Brooks, who was posting under the name “Provotrout” on a poker web forum.

Bellagio robbery suspect

KSNV coverage of suspect in Dec. 14 armed robbery of $1.5 million in casino chips from the Bellagio, Feb. 4, 2011.

Bellagio robbery

KSNV coverage of arrest in $1.5 million robbery at the Bellagio, Feb. 3, 2011.

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  • Rich Coleman talks about the "Biker Bandit" on KCBS
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Anthony M. Carleo

Metro news conference on arrest

Robber Flees the Bellagio

Pictures from the Bandit

Anthony M. Carleo, who police say is the Biker Bandit who stole $1.5 million in casino chips from the Bellagio, sent pictures of the booty to Matthew Brooks, who was posting under the name Launch slideshow »

Matthew Brooks, a 29-year-old management consultant from Washington, D.C., occasionally plays poker for fun. This is how it started.

And now it may be ending with his involvement in the arrest of Anthony M. Carleo, otherwise known as the alleged “Biker Bandit” who ripped off $1.5 million in casino chips from the Bellagio and was last seen running toward the door in his biker get-up.

Brooks isn’t and never has been a big-time gambler. The last time he was in Las Vegas was in 2003. When he does play poker, it’s low-limit fare. It’s more of a hobby than anything else, he says.

His hobby carried over to the Internet where, for at least five years he has regularly posted on TwoPlusTwo.com, a forum dedicated to poker discussion, where he went by the name “Provotrout.”

One day last month, Brooks weighed in with his thoughts in a discussion thread about the Biker Bandit.

“There was a thread just speculating on what happened to the chips, how he was going to get rid of the chips, whether it was possible, whether or not he’ll get caught, who he’d go to,” Brooks said. “Just trying to figure it out, because it’s kind of an interesting subject, you know?”

“Interesting” is putting it mildly. Since it occurred in December, the robbery has become a national story. An anonymous figure who donates to charities even offered a $50,000 bounty for anyone who helped bring the Biker Bandit to justice. And, of course, everyone went wild with comparisons to “Ocean’s Eleven,” a film which details a highly complex heist at Bellagio.

While George Clooney and Brad Pitt’s characters brought panache to ripping off a casino, there was nothing sexy about a plain-ol’ stickup.

On Dec. 14, Carleo allegedly drove a motorcycle to the north valet of the Bellagio and, with the helmet still on, walked briskly onto the casino floor, pulled out a handgun, grabbed stacks of casino chips and stuffed them in his fanny pack.

He ran back to his motorcycle, yelled at security to “Move!” and off he went.

A month later, Brooks’ participation in the online discussion about the Bandit was garnering attention from someone named “Ocean-

spray25.” Brooks was about to engage with the Biker Bandit.

“His first few posts were directed at me saying, ‘Hey, I need to talk to you about this,’ ” Brooks said. “I was kind of taken aback by it, it was kind of surprising.”

Brooks said he received an e-mail Jan. 26 from the fellow, whose e-moniker was Cranberrykid25, asking if he would be interested in paying 20 cents on the dollar for the casino chips and, if so, how many Brooks would be willing to purchase.

Brooks assumed the discussion was hypothetical, and wondered if he had given the impression to Oceanspray25-turned-Cranberrykid25 that he was a high roller with a generous bankroll. In fact, Brooks had been wondering if Cranberrykid25 was a high roller, given that “cranberry” is a nickname for the $25,000 cranberry-red Bellagio chips.

“I don’t have anywhere near the amount of cash to do this type of thing. I think he saw me posting (on the website) about the secondary market for chips, just speculating on whether or not there is one … and the nature of how (the suspect) would get rid of the chips,” Brooks said. “I’m assuming that’s why he contacted me.”

Brooks suggested they not e-mail and the two then exchanged phone numbers. Eventually, he was on the phone with the man who allegedly took $1.5 million in chips from the Bellagio.

“At this point, I was just very curious, like, ‘What in the world is going on here?’ I approached this from a curiosity perspective to figure out if this guy was for real or if he was a scammer,” Brooks said.

“The more I talked to him, the more I figured out this was probably the guy. Over the course of talking with him, he was just nervous and really anxious and told me about how he had blown through the lower denomination chips just partying for the last month or so. I’m sure that’s not hard to do in Vegas.”

Brooks said, based on his interaction with the man, he seemed “desperate” and “strung out.” (Carleo’s arrest report, released Thursday by Metro Police, said Carleo was prescribed 80 mg tablets of the narcotic painkiller OxyContin and was using the drug “in excess.”

“He was pretty much mentally broken down at this point,” Brooks said.

Brooks had avoided asking for Carleo’s name as to avoid rousing suspicion, but Brooks’ own suspicion was getting the best of him so he came out and asked.

“I just asked him point blank, ‘Did you just happen to come by these chips or is this your deal? Did you do this?’ ” Brooks said. “He said, ‘Oh, that was me. I’m that guy.’ ”

For the next 20 minutes, Brooks tried to build a rapport with Carleo over the phone. Brooks said Carleo asked him if he wanted to see a picture of the chips. Before he knew it, Brooks had been e-mailed eight images of two $25,000 Bellagio chips. The chips were placed in different positions on a sheet of loose leaf paper as if Carleo was modeling them in a photo shoot.

One picture had a handwritten message from Carleo: “To Provotrout: Good Luck My Friend …” and signed it “Biker Bandit 1/26/11.”

“At that point, I was just about positive it was the guy,” Brooks said.

He wasted no time. Working with a co-worker, Brooks was able to trace Carleo’s computer IP address to a location in Summerlin. He e-mailed Metro Police and the FBI with the information, but with no immediate response, he sent all of the correspondence and information to Bellagio security.

Metro called him that night and he gave a statement.

Brooks’ chance encounter with the Biker Bandit left his head spinning for days. But in fact, detectives were on Carleo’s trail before Brooks entered the scene.

According to the arrest report, Metro had a fix on Carleo thanks to citizen sources, undercover confidential informants and various tips. The arrest report says police found Carleo’s Facebook profile weeks before Brooks was in the picture.

So were Brooks’ dealings with Carleo the final nail in his coffin? Brooks isn’t positive and Bellagio security and Metro Police can’t comment.

But at least Brooks can start his own discussion thread on the Internet: his dealings with the man boasting to be the Biker Bandit.

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  1. Wasn't there a reward out for this? Why no mention?

  2. The third party guy, "Robin Hood 702" offered a $50,000 reward, did he pay out?

    http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2010/dec...

    I wonder who owned the guns? The police report said the were "registered to the address? The guy registered his guns with Metro when he came from Pueblo? Or were they the Judge's guns? A blue Walther PPK? Sounds like a Judge's gun.

    But the "Biker Bandit" is a victim. A young idealistic business person, who after business reversals because of the bad economy, set off to Las Vegas to go back to school and become a doctor. There, a ruthless big gaming company lured him into gambling, and refused to acknowledge his obvious "problem gambler" pathology.

    The uncaring Doctor who continued to provide him with Oxycontin, and the maker of Oxycontin (who minimized the addictive nature of the product) contributed to this young man's decline.

    Of course, all the chips ended up being lost at the casino anyway, so they were not out any real money.

    Therefore, the true guilty parties are the big heartless casino company fueling the urges of an addicted gambler, the drug company that makes this addictive drug and the doctor that prescribed it again and again. (If the cop writing the arrest report knew the levels of Oxycontin that were being prescribed were excessive, why wouldn't the doctor? see arrest report)

    Yes, the biker bandit, was another victim of the Las Vegas culture and is not guilty by reason of temporary insanity, and since he is the son of a prominent judge (connected?) he should be freed at once. Just place him under "house arrest" with an ankle monitor, he can hang out at daddy's house and play Internet Poker till the trial.

    (After-all, didn't we see a Judge's son get a slap on the wrist after "road race" traffic accident that killed a 15 year old girl?)

    (pretty good huh, just hire the "Defenders")

  3. sarcasm doesn't translate well on message boards. Hope you're not serious mred cause that's a load of bs if I've ever read it

  4. He e-mailed Metro Police and the FBI with the information, but with no immediate response, he sent all of the correspondence and information to Bellagio security.
    Had Brooks not done that I believe the police would have arrested him as a co conspirator, Anyone agree?

  5. This guy has stupid written all over his face! According to the news reports, Carleo stayed at the Bellagio several times and cashed the lower denomination chips while he was there. He stayed as a comped guest based on the amount of money he was gambling in the Bellagio before he robbed it.

    First of all, he has to be stupid to cash the chips at the same casino he robbed! If this idiot knew anything about the resorts here in Vegas, he would know you can cash the smaller denomination chips from Bellagio at one of the sister properties like Aria or Mandalay Bay!

    Secondly, if he was really smart, he would have realized he would never be able to cash the $25,000 chips ANYWHERE withour raising red flags and just destroyed the chips. Didn't he have enough of the lower denominations? But greed did him in on this.

    Lastly, running your mouth and bragging about it online or to dealers, friends, or whoever is what really did him in.

    But this guy is obviously not very smart and of course being a heavy drug user didn't help either. He probably blew a lot of the money on that too! Enjoy prison Mr. Carleo or whatever your real last name is. Daddy judge will not be able to help you.

  6. Biker Bandit is an idiot. First stupid for committing the crime and then even dumber for bragging about it. Hope Matthew gets his cut of the reward money, I think he deserves it.

  7. A victim of Society and of a broken home, I think he just needs a little gambling addiction counseling, then he can pursue his medical career at UNLV. I would think he would fit in well with the Las Vegas medical community, is Dr. Desai hiring?

    Also, where is this Robin Hood 702??? I think some people want their reward? Or At least buy Metro some donuts and coffee.

  8. I'm having some "Biker Bandit" T shirts made UP...do you think I could wear one at a casino?

  9. @sdmfla: The other sister properties would not be suspicious of anybody cashing a $100 or $500 chips. Those are common chip denominations for the Strip casinos. And no, I have never known anyone who is addicted to pain killers. Bottom line: He wanted his 15 minutes of fame and notoriety and he will get it...lol

  10. Many crooks have sunk themselves by bragging about what they did,...happens all the time.