GREENBELT, Md. – A man who worked as a baccarat dealer at a Maryland casino pleaded guilty on Tuesday to helping players cheat the casino out of just over $1 million in exchange for a share of the proceeds.
Ming Zhang of Alexandria, Virginia, faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison following his guilty plea in federal court to one count of conspiring to transport stolen funds.
Zhang exposed part of a baccarat deck to a player who photographed the unshuffled cards before that player and other "conspirators" placed large bets on hands last September, a court filing says. Bettors can predict the outcome of baccarat hands "with near-perfect accuracy" if they know they order of cards in a deck, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin Pulice.
Pulice said the scheme caused a total loss of $1,046,560 to the casino, which isn't named in court papers and wasn't identified by name during Tuesday's hearing in Greenbelt.
However, a spokesman for MGM National Harbor confirmed that Zhang had worked for the casino, which is near Washington, D.C.
"Ming Zhang is no longer employed by MGM National Harbor. We have provided our full cooperation with authorities throughout this investigation," the casino spokesman, Malik Husser, said in a statement.
U.S. District Judge Paul Grimm is scheduled to sentence Zhang on Jan. 31.
Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency spokeswoman Carole Gentry said Tuesday that the state regulatory agency was in the process of revoking Zhang's license.
MGM National Harbor, one of six casinos in Maryland, opened on the banks of the Potomac River in December 2016.
A court filing that accompanied Zhang's guilty plea says the cheating scheme targeted at least one other Maryland casino. Sometime between July 2017 and September 2017, Zhang was present when an alleged co-conspirator executed the cheating scheme at a different casino. Zhang accepted a payment of $1,000 after meeting with that person at a hotel near the other casino, the filing says.
After they carried out the cheating scheme, Zhang contacted one of his alleged co-conspirators to arrange for more compensation, investigators said. That person, who was returning to New York, promised to contact him later.
The next day, however, investigators apparently confronted Zhang, who lied to them about the scheme, according to Tuesday's court filing.
Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Robert Hur's office, said in an email that Zhang is the only person currently charged in the case.