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Stolen casino chips, cranberries and oxygen

Are cranberries right up there next to oxygen in importance? Read on.

I'm sure you remember reading about the gunpoint robbery of $1.5 million in chips from the Bellagio Hotel Casino in Las Vegas last Dec. 14. A lone bandit came riding up to the Casino on a black motorcycle at 3:50 a.m. when all law-abiding folks are home in bed, except maybe in Las Vegas. He marched up to the craps table with his gun and brazenly demanded the chips. They gave him a bagful and he was gone. The entire heist took only 2-3 minutes from entry to exit.

So what did the outlaw get? He got chips in denominations from $100 to $25,000. Not the same as cash. The chips had serial numbers and embedded radio frequency chips (RFID) that could only be used or redeemed at the Bellagio -- where they had been stolen.

The chips are known as "cranberries," and the gangster still had the problem of converting them to cash. So, just in the first week of February, he made two sales of $25,000 each (there must have been a huge discount, but the reports don't provide this information). It turns out these sales had been to an undercover policeman and an arrest was made when a third sale was being made. The man arrested was Anthony Carleo, age 29, the son of a local municipal judge who was shocked and heartbroken by the news. In the past, Carleo had been a big loser at the Bellagio and had gone through bankruptcy. At some point, he had put this message on his Facebook page: "Money isn't everything, but it's right up there with oxygen."

Aside from the issue of money being up there with oxygen is this question: How dumb does a guy have to be to steal chips from the place he'll have to return to for spending or redemption? Duh! By the way, the entire holdup was captured on the Casino surveillance cameras. It was only a matter of time.

This is not a profitable time for armed robbers. Banks, department stores, convenience stores, casinos, of course, and just about every other place with any cash -- will have surveillance cameras all over the place. Smile, you're on candid camera. And when you go out the door, the camera will record your height. Jesse James and John Dillinger had no such hurdles and even they were caught or shot. Forget about it.

Then there are the "sophisticated" outlaws who break into museums, against all odds, and lift and remove priceless art masterpieces. What do you do with a famous, but hot, Van Gogh? How long must you wait for a payday? First you must "fence" the hot painting -- the "fence" is the middleman. Can you trust him? There must be undercover cops posing as fences in the stolen art business. How many middlemen must there be, each taking a slice of the pie in discounts, before somebody can actually buy the rare painting and hang it on the wall? Can anybody ever hang it on the wall? If you need a safer, more clever scheme for getting somebody else's money, scamming is much safer on Wall Street. Then you may eventually end up with a much more interesting roommate, like Bernie Madoff.

How about stealing cars? You'd have to drive them many miles down the pike before you try to sell them, then there are the problems of registrations, license plates, VIN numbers, serial numbers, etc., etc. Trouble, trouble, trouble.

What it comes down to is this, aside from being wrong, dishonest and illegal, when you try to grab somebody else's stuff, you're entering the league of sophisticated electronics (all of them smarter than you) and smarter people trained to trap or catch stupid amateurs. It's a no-brainer. In the end, your chances of success are better trying to win the lottery on a single one buck ticket.

As this is being written, it's almost Valentine's Day. If you're determined to steal something, you'd be better advised to steal a kiss. If you're lucky, you may get two -- the second one for free, a bonus rather than a discount. Happy Valentine's Day.