By Las Vegas standards, the night was young when two men entered the Bellagio at 10:45 Saturday and made a beeline for the table games.
The two weren’t there for traditional gambling, though. Armed with pepper spray and disguised by wigs and sunglasses, the men made a bold bid to grab and make off with more than $100,000 worth of casino chips, according to a Metro Police arrest report released Monday.
Bellagio employees foiled the robbery and captured 24-year-old Michael Quinn Belton, of Nuevo, Calif., police said. His alleged accomplice ran from the casino and remained at large Monday.
The botched robbery lasted less than a minute, triggering a brief period of chaos as casino employees and security reacted on a busy Saturday night, said Richard Hauck, a patron sitting at the blackjack table where the robbery occurred.
Hauck and his wife were playing at the $100 minimum-bet table when the suspects appeared and — without saying a word — attempted the robbery, he said.
Belton’s accomplice, described as a white or Hispanic man wearing a white shirt, used the pepper spray on the blackjack dealer and Hauck, temporarily disabling them, according to the arrest report. Meanwhile, Belton grabbed 23 “Flags” — red, white and blue chips each valued at $5,000 — from the table, according to the arrest report.
At first, Hauck said he and his wife assumed the situation was an elaborate prank involving a malfunctioning squirt gun.
“The guy kept spraying and the thing wouldn’t work,” said Hauck, who’s visiting from Gates Mills, Ohio. “The spray kept falling on the table.”
When the spray canister finally worked, Hauck said they experienced a burning sensation in their eyes and concern set in.
“We didn’t know if the guy had a weapon,” he said.
A casino floor supervisor saw the robbery attempt and grabbed Belton. The two wrestled until casino security officers arrived to help, the report said.
Belton eventually surrendered, and authorities confiscated all 23 stolen chips — valued at $115,000, police said.
Belton, who donned a black wig and sunglasses during the failed robbery, confessed and told Metro Police detectives the plot involved two other men, the report said.
Belton said the man armed with pepper spray was “Carlos.” Belton told detectives a third man named Carlos Rodriguez was the mastermind who had recruited them to help, according to the arrest report.
Seeking employment, Belton told police he met Rodriguez after responding to a Craigslist ad about a job repossessing cars. Belton then traveled to Las Vegas with Rodriguez, who had posted the ad.
It was then that Rodriguez, 43, shared with Belton his plans to rob the Bellagio and solicited his help, Belton told police.
“Rodriguez informed Belton that he was a ‘high roller’ gambler in Las Vegas and would be able to later exchange the stolen chips for money, which he would split among the suspects,” according to the arrest report.
Belton said Rodriguez told him and the other “Carlos” to use the pepper spray, steal the chips and discard their disguises after leaving the casino, the report states.
Detectives recovered a Mandalay Bay room key from Belton, who told police he was supposed to meet Rodriguez there after the robbery.
A police check with Mandalay Bay employees showed Rodriguez was a registered guest, but he had never checked into his complimentary room from the Mandalay Bay Player’s Club.
Before detectives interviewed Belton, he asked them, “How long am I going away for?” the report said. Belton also told police he participated in the heist because he was unemployed and his grandparents were ill.
Police arrested Belton and booked him into the Clark County Detention Center, where he is being held on $60,000 bail.
Belton was charged with two counts of robbery, one count of burglary and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday.
The arrest report indicates neither Rodriguez nor the other “Carlos” has been located. Rodriguez, a California resident, is described as about 5-feet-11-inches tall and 210 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.
Metro spokesman Jose Hernandez, however, would not confirm the status of the other two suspects, citing the ongoing investigation. The department also is not releasing Belton’s booking photo.
“Our guys are working very hard to try to get this solved,” Hernandez said.
The Haucks, who are staying at the Bellagio, said they are enjoying the rest of their trip, which ends Wednesday.
Hauck, a frequent Las Vegas guest, called the incident troubling but not a deal-breaker. He and his wife hope to see more security officers on casino floors in the wake of the robbery attempt.
“If you saw them, you’d feel a lot more comfortable,” he said, adding he hadn’t noticed any security officers before the incident.
The couple vow they’ll be back to visit despite this trip’s adventure.
“We’re happy with the way the Bellagio handled it,” Hauck said.