A nationwide casino phone hustle made its way to Michigan in late July, according to WoodTV8, when a Four Winds Casino-Hartford employee walked out of the facility with $700,000 in cash.
Danika Nicole Young, a casino cage supervisor with no prior criminal record, took the funds after receiving a phone call on the afternoon of July 30. She’s been charged with embezzlement of $100,000 or more and faces up to 20 years in prison.
The theft came weeks after the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) and the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) issued alerts about a scam that has been playing out at casinos across the country. The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians owns and operates three retail casinos and an iCasino platform under the Four Winds brand.
According to a notice put out by the NGCB in early July, the biggest amount of money embezzled up until that time was $1.17 million, and the scam involves people posing as high-level casino employees and convincing cage employees to break protocol and take funds off-property.
“Criminal subjects use social engineering tactics to pose as casino executives,” according to the NGCB alert. “The subjects direct cage employees to withdraw cash from the casino cage and take funds offsite for emergency payments on behalf of the casino. The imposters often pose as high-level casino executives and will contact a cage employee via PBX call. The initial call is frequently followed up with a text message to the employee’s cell phone, purportedly sent by a second manager to confirm the fraudulent instructions.”
The alert further says that fraudsters imply that a bonus will be given to the employee for completing the request.
Fraudsters use fear, urgency
A National Indian Gaming Council alert describes a scenario in which a cage employee takes the cash, stays on the phone with the scammer, and either delivers the cash in person, deposits it into a Bitcoin kiosk, or sends a wire transfer. The NIGC alert further says that “the social engineering scams use perceived authority, fear, and urgency to manipulate employees into breaking internal controls.”
At Four Winds, the cage employee in question delivered funds to an unknown recipient in Gary, Indiana, where Young was apprehended. According to WoodTV8, she apologized at her arraignment.
Young had worked at Four Winds for 16 years, and her mother told the TV station, “She’s a straight-laced girl. She would not leave her son. She would not throw away 16 years [working at the casino]. Something happened. Something is not right.”
Despite that, Judge Arthur H. Clark III set Young’s bond at $1 million, in part because the funds have not been recovered. A probable cause conference is scheduled for Aug. 30.
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