Huge haul in a short time span

In a variation of an old casino scam, a gang of four men defrauded UK betting shops out of more than £600,000 this summer. All four men have since been caught and handed varying prison sentences.

I’m the kind of person who actually kind of appreciates a good con if it is clever, creative, or well-executed, while at the same time naturally disapproving of it. It’s why we like heist movies, right? We can be entertained by Danny Ocean’s crew while still believing what they are doing is wrong (if it was real life, of course). I also shake my head in some form of disappointment when the criminals do something so incredibly stupid to get themselves caught. Again, I don’t approve of their actions, but I also dislike stupidity.

Enter Thomas Wheatcroft, Charlie Shaw, Michael Sadgove-Tarrant, and Paul Hubbold. During June and July they hit Ladbrokes and Coral betting shops in London, Yorkshire, Merseyside, Essex, the West Midlands, Cambridgeshire and Surrey to the tune of £663,556.

Effective, yet basic scam

What they did was fairly simple. The men inserted laminated £20 and £50 notes into betting machines just far and just long enough for the machine to register the credits, then pulled them out using a plastic lead. Rinse and repeat at many different shops and they had hundreds of thousands of pounds of deposits for no more than the cost of the few plastic-coated bank notes.

It is unclear whether or not they actually proceeded to place bets or if they just cashed out their ill-gotten credits, but we would guess they engaged in some “cover play” to make it look like they were actual customers. It is also unknown as to exactly why they laminated the bills, but it is probably one or both of a) it guaranteed they remained in good condition so that the machine would accept them on the first try, and b) it made it easier to attach the lead to the bills so they could be yanked out of the machine without tearing.

It’s fairly surprising that something this simple would work in the year 2021 and that machines are not designed to prevent it. As mentioned, it is a variation on an old casino scam. Back in the day when gambling machines like slots and video poker accepted coins (some still do in a couple casinos), a common scam was to simply attach a string to a coin, drop it into the coin slot until the machine registered it, then pull it back out. Same concept.

It’s like they wanted to get caught

As for the stupidity part, according to the Liverpool Echo, all four men were wearing the same clothing, quite the tipoff when law enforcement checked security footage after employees reported that the machines contained many thousands of pounds less than they were supposed to. Then, when the men were arrested, police found the clothing in bags, including 20 baseball caps. I mean, come on, guys. You’re not on a sports team. You don’t have to wear the same uniform AND keep the evidence.

Wheatcroft and Shaw are definitely seeing time behind bars, sentenced to four-plus years and two years, respectively. Sadgove-Tarrant and Hubbold were sentenced to shorter terms, but theirs were suspended, so if they live on the straight-and-narrow, they might avoid incarceration.

“I am pleased that Wheatcroft and Shaw, who were the main offenders, received custodial sentences, and I hope this provides some relief for the companies who have been affected by their actions,” said Detective Constable Kevin Parley of the Met Police.

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