Ky. man gets probation for cheating at W.Va. casino
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Kentucky man has been sentenced to probation and community service after being caught cheating at Mardi Gras Casino.
Robert Plante, 29, of Ashland, Ky., had been indicted on five counts of table game violation, a felony. He accepted an agreement with prosecutors and pleaded guilty Thursday in Kanawha Circuit Court to three counts of petit larceny.
He avoided a possible penalty on the table game violations of up to five years in prison for each count.
Circuit Judge Kaufman asked Plante to explain in detail how he cheated at the blackjack table May 29, 2012. Plante was caught on video surveillance moving chips back and forth when he shouldn't have.
"I placed chips on a second bet and matched the dealer without the dealer seeing me do that," Plante said. "After the cards are dealt, you are not supposed to put any bets up."
Plante also pulled some chips back into his hand after he was allowed to.
"So you were just trying to cut your losses?" the judge asked.
"Yes. It was cheating, sir," Plante told Kaufman.
"And why did you do it?" the judge asked.
"Greed," he replied.
About $25 to $75 was involved in each incidence of cheating, said Assistant Prosecutor Tera Salango. She said it was the first time she has prosecuted a case under the table games law.
"So that whole $200 is what got you into this pickle?" Kaufman said.
Plante's attorney, Harvey Peyton, told the judge that Plante has no significant criminal history — juvenile misdemeanors, a DUI, speeding tickets. He holds a college degree and coaches youth baseball.
"They do very extensive investigation there," Salango said of the casino. "And they take pictures right on people's hands. Every move is viewed."
Peyton said casino officials who observed the cheating immediately communicated by radio to the dealer to shut down the blackjack table after Plante was seen cheating several times.
"They approached him and he was told to hand over the chips and get out," Peyton said. "And they sent him a letter banning him for life."
Instead, Kaufman opted for a six-month probation and 50 hours of community service at a hospice in Kentucky where Plante already is a volunteer.
When questioned by the judge, Peyton said the public was the victim in Plante's crime.
"These chips belong to the Lottery Commission," the defense attorney said. "And the proceeds benefit children and the community.
"I think that's why these acts are as highly criminalized as they are," Kaufman agreed. "It's one thing to take chips. But it's a breach of the peace.
"It's most important you understand what it was that was more costly to the community," the judge said. "And that's why they have such security down there."
Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at email@example.com or 304-348-4832.