Detroit man donned prosthetic mask to steal from casino ATMs

By Noah Taylor Updated
Detroit man donned prosthetic mask to steal from casino ATMs

A Detroit man has pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and identity theft after donning a prosthetic mask to appear older and then withdraw money from other people’s bank accounts at casino ATMs.

56-year-old John Colletti of Harper Woods has a sentencing hearing on July 7 after making his plea last Tuesday.

He could face more than 20 years in prison.

Colletti’s identity theft and fraud spree began in April 2019 and continued until March 2020, when he was arrested in Kansas.

Most of Colletti’s thefts occurred at Detroit’s MGM Grand casino and other Michigan properties.

In each instance, Colletti donned a prosthetic face mask that made him appear older, while adding to the disguise with a hat, glasses and the like.

Colletti’s spree resulted in the theft of at least $125,740, which he was ordered to repay to the ATMs’ owner and operator, Global Payments Gaming Services.

Most of his thefts came during several weeks in April and May 2019.

All the victims were members of GPGS’s VIP Preferred Program and the company had already refunded individual victims for the thefts from their banking accounts.

The MGM Grand in Detroit quickly realised it had a serial thief of its hands, identifying the likely fraudster via security footage.

The case began with the Michigan State Police and eventually involved the FBI, which was able to track back the victims’ common theme.

Fake IDs and prosthetic mask key to fraud case

The FBI eventually determined that Colletti purchased the IDs of his victims on the internet, then created fake drivers licences and other identification to gain access to their accounts in the GPGS system.

Investigators recovered roughly 300 forged IDs with Colletti’s prosthetic mask image as its photo following his arrest.

On a flash drive recovered in Kansas, where he was arrested, authorities also found a spreadsheet with identifying information for more than 1000 would-be victims.

Colletti’s March 2020 arrest at the Prairie Band Casino and Resort in Mayetta, Kansas, included a foiled escape attempt.

By that time, images of Colletti in his “old man” disguise had likely been circulated to casinos across the country and Prairie Band security quickly ID’s the suspected fraudster, who had already made several ATM withdrawals.

The security guards confronted Colletti and asked him to return to the cashier, but on the way there, Colletti veered into a restroom where he attempted to ditch his disguise.

He removed his prosthetic mask, an outer layer of clothes including a straw hat, a walker, two fake Michigan drivers licences and approximately $11,000 of the $20,000 he had already withdrawn from the casino’s ATMs.

Security also recovered a key to a rented Nissan car, where authorities found additional items linking Colletti to the thefts, including a flash drive and four more prosthetic masks, among other incriminating items.

He was quickly identified to MGM Grand Detroit and to the authorities investigating the Michigan frauds, who confirmed his likely identity. 

Following Colletti’s arrest, he was extradited back to Michigan to face the charges there. 

Timothy Water, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office said “John Colletti stole the identities of dozens of people, dragging them all into his criminal scheme.

“The impacts of identity theft are serious and far reaching for victims and the FBI will work hard to ensure anyone who engages in this type of conduct is held accountable.”

Back to top