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Judge won't lower bail for accused Bellagio bandit

Anthony Carleo Bellagio robbery.jpg

April 8: Anthony Carleo listening during his evidence hearing in district court in Las Vegas. (AP)

A judge in Las Vegas on Thursday denied reduced bail for a man accused of robbing two Sin City casinos at gunpoint while disguised in a motorcycle helmet.

Clark County District Court Judge Michelle Leavitt kept bail for Anthony Carleo, 29, set at $1 million on charges he stole $1.5 million in casino chips from the posh Bellagio resort on the Las Vegas Strip in December. Last week, prosecutors filed new charges in a separate case, saying Carleo robbed another casino in northwest Las Vegas of nearly $19,000 in cash five days earlier.

Carleo's lawyer, William Terry, argued that the bail was excessive and not in line with bond set in other robbery cases.

Terry said the charges in the robbery of the Suncoast Hotel & Casino were not surprising but were filed as retaliation by prosecutors after he declined a plea deal and filed a formal motion to lower Carleo's bail.

"They've had at least three months to four months to file that case if they wanted," Terry said. "The timing is really questionable."

Prosecutor Chris Owens said the second case was filed in response to the bail motion but not as retaliation.

He and Terry agreed not to file motions or other actions in the case while they negotiated a possible plea deal, but Terry's bail motion indicated that those talks were over, Owens said.

"It's not being vindictive — it's part of the process," he said.

A third case against Carleo over drugs and guns is coming, and the possible prison time the combined cases carry makes Carleo a risk to flee if he is let free, Owens said.

Owens said $375,000 in Bellagio chips is still missing and unaccounted for, and Carleo and others connected with him have threatened at least two witnesses.

When asked for his reaction to the denial for a lower bond for his client, Terry said: "Disappointed — that's it."

He told the judge that if allowed lower bail, Carleo planned to enter a drug treatment program in Nevada or Colorado.

His trial in the Bellagio case is scheduled for Jan. 10.

Police arrested Carleo in February at the Bellagio, one day after an undercover officer bought four $25,000 chips from him, according to an arrest report. The report said the officer invited Carleo to become part of a crew that would rob casinos, including the Bellagio. The officer said Carleo responded by saying he had already robbed the place.

Carleo spent two months after the Bellagio heist partying, doing drugs, gambling big and trying to figure out what to do with the high-denomination chips, the report said.

He eventually tried to hawk them to a casual poker player after connecting with him on a popular Web forum, sending pictures of the chips signed "Biker Bandit," the report said. The poker fan, Matthew Brooks, said he went to the FBI after trading phone calls and emails with Carleo.

Police said they connected Carleo to the Suncoast robbery through hotel, casino and cellphone records, witness descriptions of the gun and backpack used in the robbery, and a police interview with a Colorado woman who said she knew about Carleo committing both robberies but was threatened by him.

Carleo searched for "tips for robbing someone" on his computer three days before the heist and used his cellphone near the Suncoast before and after the robbery, the arrest report said.

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Oskar Garcia can be reached at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia .

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