Luck runs out in casino ATM scam

Crown Point – One gaming official called it „everyone’s fantasy — just by going to your ATM machine, you can get unlimited money.“

Problem is, authorities say, taking money you know your account can’t cover is against the law.

As a result, two Illinois men now are facing charges and about two dozen more people are under investigation.

Daniel D. Martin, 45, of Evanston, Ill,, was charged with two counts of theft while Herman C. Simpson, 46, of Riverside, Ill., was charged with one count of attempted theft.

The two men, who have yet to be arrested, were charged Monday in Lake County Superior Court. They took or tried to take about USD 115,000 from Majestic Star Casino in Gary earlier this spring, Indiana Gaming Commission agent John Westmoreland said.

The machines apparently were so generous because software was improperly installed in the ATMs at casinos in Gary and Tunica, Miss., Westmoreland said.

The ATM machines, which dispense receipts instead of cash for larger financial transactions, would authorize any ATM/debit card placed into it for payment, he said.

The malfunction ended up costing the operator of the casinos‘ ATM authorizing system, Fidelity National Information Services/Certegy Inc., more than USD 2 million, he said.

Joseph Wolf, vice president of the St. Petersburg, Fla., company, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Westmoreland said when the case is eventually resolved there is the possibility of up to 25 more people being charged with fraudulently taking money they didn’t have in their bank accounts.

„We won’t know exactly how many until we get bank records back,“ he said.

He said there were more than 100 transactions from the Gary-based ATM alone with the average amount taken in the USD 10,000 to USD 15,000 range.

„We’re also looking at a couple of people who took USD 100,000. We’re starting with the big ones first,“ he said.

He said Simpson, whose case came to the attention of an alert casino teller, was the first one questioned by Indiana Gaming Commission agents.

„He brought it all to a head,“ Westmoreland said.

Simpson, after obtaining a receipt for USD 2,000 from the ATM, took the receipt to the teller cage at the Majestic Star. The teller took his receipt, asked for his debit card and form of identification and then was escorted to the Indiana Gaming Commission office, court records indicate.

When questioned, Simpson admitted he had no money in his account.

Martin, who is accused of taking USD 112,700, made 39 fraudulent transactions during a four-day period from May 19 to 22, authorities said. He reportedly admitted knowing he could not cover the withdrawals.

Martin said he told his wife about the money and she told him to take it back to the casino, which he did, but instead gambled it away, court records indicate.