According to a press release that appeared on the Federal Bureau of Investigations website last Wednesday, December 10, four Russian nationals have been indicted on charges of fraud after allegedly scamming slot machines across the United States. The four are accused of traveling the country to cheat casinos by using illegal electronic devices.
The indictment stated that the four individuals have been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud on slot machines, with at least 10 commercial and tribal casinos being targeted throughout California, Illinois and Missouri. The electronic devices in question were used to predict the upcoming outcome of a specific strain of slot machines, known as the Aristocrat Mark VI Electronic Gaming Device.
The report indicates that the illegal devices were able to communicate with foreign servers to transmit information that allowed the men to foresee a slot machine’s impending outcome. As such, they were able to manipulate their game play to obtain winnings far greater than an average player who had no access to such unfair knowledge.
The FBI claims that the defendants made multiple trips from Russia to the US in order to pursue their duplicitous stratagem. They are believed to have used the electronic devices at casinos in Temecula, California, as well as St. Louis and East St. Louis, Missouri, among others.
Indicted by the federal grand jury were 36 year old Murat Bliev, 32 year old Ivan Gudalov, 28 year old Igor Lavrenov, and 38 year old Yevgeniy Nazarov. The charges include “traveling in interstate and foreign commerce in furtherance of the conspiracy” to commit fraud. The FBI believes that three of the defendants, Bliev, Gudalov and Lavrenov, are residents of Moscow, Russia, while the fourth, Nazarov, is a US citizen and resident of Miami, Florida.
All are innocent until proven guilty, but should the four be convicted of their alleged crimes, they could face a maximum penalty of up to 5 years in prison, and/or a fine not to exceed $250,000. The judge presiding over their case will be required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines that govern the recommended range of sentencing for specific criminal activities.
The indictments were the result of a multi-state investigation that involved multiple branches of state and federal authorities, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Assisting in reconnaissance were the
“Homeland Security Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Missouri Highway Patrol, the Missouri Gaming Commission, the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Gaming Board, and the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Gambling Control”. The case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Richard E. Finneran of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Aristocrat Leisure Limited, the company responsible for producing the slot machines that were allegedly scammed by the four Russian nationals, has been producing gambling devices for more than 60 years. Headquartered in Australia, the company currently maintains manufacturing offices in Japan, South Africa, the United States and – you guessed it – Russia. It’s not clear where the men may have obtained the device used to manipulate the slot machines, but the regional connection is indubitably circumspect.