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Las Vegas police name Southern California man as suspect in $1.6M Venetian casino chip heist

Las Vegas police are looking for a 31-year-old Southern California man they believe sneaked into a restricted area of the Venetian resort earlier this month and stole $1.6 million in high-denomination casino chips.

Akingide Cole of Palmdale, Calif., is wanted on suspicion of burglary, grand larceny, and unlawful possession of burglary tools stemming from the heist at the Las Vegas Strip resort, police said Monday.

But it's unlikely the robber will be able to redeem the high-value chips, which are usually circulated among a small group of high-rollers.

"In any of these thefts of chips, it's very difficult to cash these in," said Nevada Gaming Control Board Chief of Enforcement Jerry Markling. "Licensees generally know who their customers are."

Police didn't disclose exactly how the theft occurred, but they said no weapon was involved, and the man didn't confront anyone during the incident, which happened about 6 a.m. on Oct. 10.

Officials at the Venetian did not immediately return a message Monday afternoon seeking comment.

The theft was a departure from two high-profile heists in recent months. In May, two men wearing wigs walked up to a table at the Bellagio, pepper-sprayed a blackjack dealer, and snatched $115,000 in chips.

A casino supervisor tackled one of the men, Michael Quinn Belton, and retrieved the 23 chips worth $5,000 each. The other man got away.

Belton, 25, of Nuevo, California, apologized in court earlier this month and was sentenced to two to five years in prison.

In another high-profile case at the Bellagio, Anthony Michael Carleo was sentenced to three to 11 years in state prison for armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.

Carleo wore a motorcycle helmet Dec. 14, 2010, as he waved a gun and made off with $1.5 million worth of high-value chips. He was arrested trying to redeem a $25,000 chip.

Casinos typically have a second, differently styled set of chips that can be put into circulation after a theft, Markling said. That way, someone trying to play with stolen chips would stand out.

Meanwhile, police are seeking out information on Cole's whereabouts.

Police describe him as 6 feet tall and weighing about 225 pounds. He last had a goatee and short dark hair in a semi-mohawk, and police also said he has a distinctive fibrous growth on his left earlobe.

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