Harper Woods Man Who Wore Prosthetic Face For $125,000 In Casino Robberies Pleads Guilty

Written By Matt Schoch on April 8, 2021
Harper Woods Man Wore Masks To Fraud Michigan Casino Customers

A Harper Woods man accused of wearing a prosthetic face mask to commit casino robberies has pleaded guilty to wire and identity fraud.

John Christopher Colletti, 56, entered the plea in federal court this week for the case, which alleges he posed as an elderly man to defraud patrons at MGM Grand Detroit and a Kansas tribal casino of more than $125,000.

John Colletti faces up to 20 years in prison at July sentencing

Colletti made the plea in Detroit to U.S. District Judge Linda Parker. He faces sentencing July 7.

Colletti faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for wire fraud. The identity charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison.

“This defendant went to extraordinary lengths to hide his identity in order to steal others identities and money,” Acting US Attorney Saima Mohsin said in a statement.  “I commend the work of the FBI agents for tracking Colletti down and helping bring him to justice.”

Charges included using phony driver’s licenses

The charges alleged Colletti stole identities by buying personal information online and then making counterfeit driver’s licenses to steal cash.

Colletti stole $30,000 from 15 withdrawals from MGM Grand patrons on May 23, 2019, the FBI said.

The report said Colletti wore a prosthetic mask, blue jacket, dark cap, blue jeans and sunglasses during the heist. He then left in a cab.

Colletti was then dropped off at Pegasus Tavern in Detroit’s Greektown, near Greektown Casino-Hotel. There, he changed in the bathroom, leaving with his disguise in a black trash bag.

The FBI said Colletti stole $98,840 from 10 MGM Grand patrons over a two-month period in spring 2019.

“The guy thought he was really sharp and used other people’s money,” said former Detroit Police Department Assistant Chief Steve Dolunt to clickondetroit.com.

VIP Program allowed cash advances

The FBI said Colletti’s victims were enrolled in a VIP program through Global Payments Gaming Services. The VIP account was linked to the victims’ bank accounts and allowed cash advances at casino kiosks.

Global Payments Gaming Services assumed the loss on behalf of the VIP patrons. Colletti is required to pay $125,740 in restitution to the company as part of his guilty plea.

On each trip, Colletti made multiple withdrawals. Closed-circuit televisions monitor the kiosks.

Colletti caught in pandemic’s early days

Colletti was arrested last year in Kansas four days before the Detroit casinos closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There, the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribal Police apprehended Colletti at the Prairie Band Casino and Resort in Mayetta, KS.

The Harper Woods man evaded approaching security officers there by going to the bathroom and leaving behind a walker, clothes and $11,000 in cash, along with two Michigan driver’s licenses.

The licenses had altered photos of an elderly man in a mask. Adhered sticky notes had the victims’ Social Security and phone numbers written on them.

An FBI K9 deputy found the prosthetic mask on the ground near the casino.

Colletti had two more licenses on him when he was arrested. His rental car contained four prosthetic masks and a straw hat matching the one Colletti wore at MGM Grand.

FBI: Colletti had 83 driver’s licenses in all

According to the FBI, the search uncovered 83 driver’s licenses, 14 insurance cards, six open-water diver certification cards, two Binghamton University staff ID cards, 19 player cards from various casinos, including MGM Grand, and books on how to get away with crimes.

Investigators also found a flash drive with forged documents, background checks and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets with more than 1,000 names. The files also had banking information and monthly salary totals.

“Colletti stole the identities of dozens of innocent people, dragging them all into his criminal scheme,” said Timothy Waters, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, in a statement. “The impacts of identity theft are serious and far-reaching for victims, and the FBI will work hard to ensure anyone who engages in this type of conduct is held accountable.”

Photo by U.S. District Court, Eastern District Of Michigan
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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the former host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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