The Mohegan Sun Casino at Pocono Downs, located in Plains Township on Highway 315 just outside of Wilkes-Barre, PA, has been making headline news for the last year. Unfortunately, it’s not for paying out life-altering jackpots, or hosting prestigious poker tournaments. Since February 2015, four of the Pennsylvania casino’s employees have admitted to cheating the casino out of money that nearly totals $1 million.
The latest incident occurred on Thursday, February 25, 2015, when a slots supervisor was officially charged with stealing over $26k from the casino from as far back as May 2014. 41 year old James Clayton Benczkowski of Duryea, PA had been under investigation by local authorities since last year after being tipped off to suspicious activity by a fellow employee.
As a slots supervisor at Mohegan Sun Casino, it was Mr. Benczkowski’s job to resolve any disputes that may arise from patrons playing the slot machines. In many cases, his job required him to issue a refund to players. In doing so, police allege that he asked customers to sign the reimbursement slip before he inserted the actual dollar amount being refunded.
Afterwards, police say Mr. Benczkowski would enter a higher dollar amount, dispersing the correct refund than pocketing the additional cash for himself.
The casino caught wind of this activity when an anonymous co-worker reported observing Mr. Benczkowski in the men’s restroom counting $100 bills – an estimated $5,000 worth – before rolling them up and stuffing them into his sock. He was immediately put on “employee watch”. It wasn’t long before he was observed giving $5 refunds to two players, yet filling out each slip for $100 – effectively stealing $190 from the casino.
Troopers moved in shortly after, and Mr. Benczkowski denied the accusations at first. When asked why he had so much money on him, he told police he was attempting to track down the players to give them their refunds. Surveillance cameras proved otherwise, clearly showing the players had already been reimbursed.
With evidence quickly mounting, Mr. Benczkowski came clean. According to a signed affidavit, he told authorities he had stolen the money, and kept it in his sock so that it would not accidentally fall out when retrieving other items.
He later told authorities that he had a drug problem, and was using the ill-gotten gains to purchase Vicodin from one of the casino’s patrons, who happened to be the cousin of another employee. He said that he takes up to 20 Vicodin a day, and drinks alcohol at night.
The casino performed an audit of all the supervisor’s transactions between May 2014 and September 2015. Mr. Benczkowski issued 523 reimbursements in that time. With the help of Mohegan Sun officials, police determined that 314 of them were erroneous, cheating the casino out of $26,152.
All of the stolen money came directly from his employers, and did not affect other patrons of the casino in any way. Needless to say, Mr. Benczkowski is no longer an employee of the Pennsylvania casino.
State police filed a complaint against Mr. Benczkowski on Thursday. A court date has not been set.
4 Casino Employees Charged in 12 Month Span
This marks the fourth employee in the last year to have been charged with cheating the casino out of money.
Last month, Mohegan Sun’s former Vice President of Player Development, Robert Joseph Pellegrini, and cocktail waitress Rochelle Poszeluznyj, along with casino patron Mark Joseph Heltzel, were charged with conspiracy to steal $896,893 from Mohegan Sun Casino, including free play credits and illicit winning.
According to court documents, Ms. Poszeluznyj would collect information from player cards while serving beverages, then hand that information to Mr. Pellegrini, who created duplicated player cards and loaded them with free slots play credits. The cards were then given to Mr. Heltzel, who played through the free credits (totaling $478,100 between May 2014 – April 2015) and shared the winnings ($418,793) with his co-conspirators. All three are currently free on bail awaiting trial.
In February 2015, Dustin Raynor Laird, a former pai gow poker dealer at Mohegan Sun, admitted to colluding with two players, Chung Van Lam and Jessica Hahn Nguyen, to cheat the casino out of $17,710. Mr. Laird confessed that he had intentionally dealt himself losing hands to ensure the players won. He pled guilty to those charges in December.