Casino revenue for Michigan casinos may be on the rise, but their high rollers are taking a hit.
Carjacking ring targets Detroit-area casinos’ high-limit players
According to reporting by WXYZ Detroit, two men and a woman targeted winning players at Detroit-area casinos. According to authorities, the alleged carjackers crashed into the victims after leaving the casino parking lot. The team would steal the victims’ winnings and their car.
The carjackings mostly occurred in the vicinity of MGM Grand Casino and happened during the week of September 22-29 in 2017.
Authorities arrested Kenneth Martez Gardner, Damon Kristopher Washington, and Veronica Sharp in connection with the crimes.
Sharp reportedly spent time in the high roller’s area scouting for winning players leaving with a lot of cash.
Allegedly, she trailed behind the players to the garage and notified Washington of their location. Washington drove to the floor, picked up Sharp and followed the players onto the roads.
Washington and Sharp briefly meet up with Gardner, who takes over and crashes into the car. According to a complaint filed by the victims, while they were assessing the damage, Gardner pulled a gun.
He demanded their “phone, wallet and money.” Gardner left the scene in the victim’s car, leaving the original car at the scene. That car was from a previous carjacking.
All good things must come to an end
On Oct. 1, 2017, investigators in the case discovered a red Dodge Charger registered to Washington on a surveillance tape. It was following another car out of the casino garage.
Police observed the car pulling alongside a work van in a senior-living center parking lot. Allegedly, Gardner got out of the vehicle and stole the van.
Police continued to observe the Charger and found it around MGM Grand and Motor City casinos. The stolen van was also seen around the Detroit-area casinos at approximately 2 a.m. on Oct. 2. Both the car and the van drove slowly in and out of parking lots as if they were scouting their next targets.
The complaint states both the car and the van followed a woman driving a 2010 Ford Taurus from Motor City casino. The van and car were side-by-side, and the drivers had a conversation.
The van continued to follow the Taurus eventually crashing into it. The driver of the Taurus pulled over to the side of the Lodge freeway, as Gardner approached the driver. Michigan State Police arrived on the scene, and Gardner allegedly threw a gun under the Taurus.
State troopers arrested Gardner and police eventually found the gun that turned out to be stolen.
Conspiracy to commit carjacking at Detroit-area casinos
On Oct. 17, an indictment was handed down in the case for Washington and Gardner. The indictment was for the conspiracy to commit carjacking for the 2005 Toyota Sienna on Sept. 22, the 2013 Nissan Sentra on Sept. 26 and the 2017 Chrysler 300 on Sept. 29.
The indictment came following a police interview of Garner where he confessed to possessing the stolen gun. He said Washington gave him the gun earlier. Gardner admitted to crashing into the Taurus with the intent to rob the driver after she stopped.
Washington pleaded guilty to five charges:
- Carjacking a motor vehicle
- Use of a firearm during a violent crime
- Aggravated identity theft
- Possession of 15 or more counterfeit authorized access devices
There is no mention of an indictment of Sharp in the reporting. There is an account of a co-conspirator interview detailing Sharp’s role in the alleged carjacking ring.
Apparently, Sharp was paid $1,500 for her help in scouting potential targets. Police verified Sharp’s relationship with Washington and Garnder through cell-phone records. The records also place her near the scenes of the crimes.