A gambler who has tried to cheat casinos in Las Vegas and beyond is accused of using invisible ink and infrared contact lenses in a sophisticated card-marking scheme during a poker game at L’Auberge Casino in Baton Rouge.
State Police have issued a felony warrant for Bruce Koloshi, 54, of Summit, N.J., on counts of cheating and swindling and simple criminal damage to property. The scam, uncovered after Koloshi had left the casino, is the first of its kind that local gambling investigators have encountered, authorities said.
“We’re taking steps to locate him,” said Capt. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman.
Koloshi, who remained at large Monday, denied wrongdoing when reached on his cellphone. He said during a brief interview that security officials were “overzealous” in detaining him on suspicion of cheating. He added that he has spent little time gambling in Louisiana’s capital city and has no intention of returning to the casino.
“That’s ridiculous,” Koloshi said of the accusations. “Nothing happened, and that was it. There’s nothing else to talk about.”
The alleged scheme was detected the afternoon of Aug. 26 when Koloshi was flagged for suspicious behavior while playing Mississippi Stud poker at Table 410. Surveillance footage showed him reaching his right hand under the table before he was dealt his cards, according to court filings.
“Once Mr. Koloshi was dealt the cards, he could clearly be seen using his right index and middle finger to push down on the card,” Senior Trooper Jason Evans, of the State Police Gaming Enforcement Division, wrote in an affidavit. “The actions by Mr. Koloshi were consistent with the actions used by most card markers who are attempting to ‘dent’ the card.”
State Police Sgt. Matthew Sinanan was reviewing footage of the suspicious behavior when Koloshi “colored up,” meaning he asked the dealer to consolidate his chips into larger denominations, and then left the table, according to the affidavit.
Security confronted Koloshi as he was leaving the casino, and he was interviewed by Sinanan, who released him due to an initial dearth of evidence, records show.
“They let me go and that was it,” Koloshi said Monday, apparently unaware that he was being sought by authorities.
Before he was allowed to leave, Koloshi was asked to empty his pockets, which contained a cellphone, cash, a contact lens container and more than $3,200 worth of casino chips. The arrest warrant says Koloshi “voluntarily gave his winnings back to the casino,” a move one expert described as deeply incriminating.
The cards in question were taken out of play after the incident and placed in a plastic bag in the casino’s surveillance room. Jerod Emrick, the casino’s director of surveillance, continued the investigation the following day and noticed some markings while he was reviewing the cards under an infrared lens.
“The markings were small finger pad markings made from invisible luminous ink,” Evans wrote in the warrant. “The markings were invisible to the naked eye and could only be seen when viewed with the infrared filter.”
Investigators found the location of the markings corresponded with the value of the card; for instance, aces were marked at the same location and 10s were also marked in a certain spot, the warrant says.
Authorities began researching the markings and found a number of luminous ink and infrared contact lens kits for sale online. These websites boasted that “use of these kits would allow the user to mark cards without being caught,” Evans wrote in the warrant.
While state investigators said they had not previously seen a case like this, it is not the first time the allegations have been levied against a casino player. A group of Italians, winning at a conspicuous rate at a casino in France in 2011, was accused of wearing treated lenses to see otherwise invisible markings on the playing cards.
Bill Zender, a well-known casino gambling consultant, said the use of a contact lens would be “kind of an overkill.” He suggested Koloshi might have been merely “daubing” the payoff cards, or applying a light adhesive matter that a trained eye can spot.
“I could walk in with regular daub — red, blue, sliver or gold — and mark the cards and you wouldn’t be able to see it unless you knew what to look for, and I wouldn’t need lenses,” Zender said. “Even if the dealer looks down at the deck, he’s not going to see it.”
In the Koloshi case, investigators reviewed the playing table under an infrared light and noticed the spot where he had been sitting had luminous ink on it. The felt was removed and, along with the cards, submitted as evidence to State Police headquarters, records show.
Investigators noted the deck of cards had been put into play about 12:45 p.m.; Koloshi played between 1:02 p.m. and 3:18 p.m.
Kerry Andersen, a casino spokeswoman, declined to discuss specifics of the case because the investigation was continuing.
“Protecting the integrity of our games is a top priority for L’Auberge Baton Rouge and Pinnacle Entertainment,” she wrote in an email response. “Our skilled team works closely with Louisiana State Police and other law enforcement agencies to apprehend and diligently prosecute any and all suspected cheats to the fullest extent of the law.”
The allegations are not the first Koloshi has faced. According to court documents, he has convictions for cheating in Las Vegas, Reno, Nev., and Black Hawk County, Iowa.
Karl Bennison, chief of the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s enforcement division, said that Koloshi was arrested in 1998 in Reno in a “general marking and bending cards case.” A jury later convicted him at trial.
He was arrested again at Harrah’s Las Vegas in 2004 in a daubing case and later pleaded guilty, Bennison said.
“Sometimes they use just ink and bare vision with no enhancement,” Bennison said of cheaters. “They try to put the least amount on there that they can still see.”
Koloshi was also arrested for cheating in Iowa in 2009, but the state’s Division of Criminal Investigation did not immediately provide details surrounding the case Monday.
Koloshi has a long list of aliases. His name has been spelled as Kaloshi in several public records, but State Police provided the spelling of Koloshi, which has also appeared in some court filings. State Police asked that anyone with information regarding Koloshi’s whereabouts call investigators at (225) 224-4291.