When Big Brother was watched by Surveillance.
In April 1999 David Wai Sang Fung, who is known as Big Brother and the leader of the organised Asian baccarat cheat team, which is the scourge of many casinos World- wide, had brought his team to Budapest.
On entering the city they walked into one of the neighbouring casinos, which had a Baccarat (Punto Banco) table. This table didn´t usually get much action and particularly in the afternoons but the management scrambled a team together and quickly got the table open for them. This casino also had a poor camera system, out of date and unmanned, with no surveillance department, the management took it in turns to review losing games. After marking the eights and nines during the first shoe, (probably with the use of petroleum jelly) it didn´t take long for the team to amass a profit of 80,000 Deutch Marks. This was a lot of money for this German currency casino and the heat around the table must have been intense. Later that same day the team made its way across the street and into our premises, it didn´t take long for the information to come across to us, by this time they had taken up their seats on our Mini Baccarat table. Obviously they would now need to change their modus operandi as on this game the players were not allowed to handle the cards. They had decided to play straight and wait for the large baccarat table to open in the evening and because of the higher betting limits, maximum $10,000 U.S.
When the large table opened in the evening, they were now allowed to touch the cards and handle the shoe, however they soon realised that the cards were changed for new ones at the end of each shoe, this was fortunate for us as it was the procedures, which saved us from a very big hit. Meanwhile surveillance was keeping a very close eye on them because their next method would have been to start flashing and peeking at the cards and distracting the dealers, in any case they decided to play honestly for a change. The best time for them to flash the first card is immediately after the coup is finished and everybodys concentration is on removing the losing bets and making the payouts on both sides of the table. However now they were probably trying to establish some credibility until we lowered our guard and then they would strike. They returned the next afternoon and again started playing Mini Baccarat, with no obvious problems they were neither winning nor losing any great amounts between the group of about eight members. Four of them were travelling on false Venezuelan passports and the others had been recruited locally from the Hungarian and Austrian Chinese communities. Big Brother was the leader of the Asian team and he was usually responsible for training and organizing their plan of action, some of them were used as look outs and others paid to beef up the numbers and their take from the game, signals and codes were usually used to avoid being detected by the gaming staff.
When I returned to work that evening, following my days off, most of the management had gathered in the office and the talk was about these Chinese players and what to do about them and whether they were straight or not. I remember at the time that the owners of our casino had hired a security consultant as we were in the process of searching for a new surveillance manager. For the best part of two days this consultant had been searching among the information and files we kept on undesirables. There were the monthly news letters, which we kept on file and the three mug shot volumes, which were full of every known casino cheat. After listening to what had happened in the neighbouring casino, I walked on to the gaming floor and without looking at the Mini Baccarat table, which was crowded, I went to the monitor at the pit desk to look at their images from the reception system. After clicking through the gallery of images I came across one that I instantly recognized. Going back into the office, I announced to everyone that he was in the mug shot books and the newsletters and after thumbing through them for a minute there he was, Big Brother David Fung. One of the other managers said “that´s a better likeness than we took of him in the reception program” and off he went to inform the pit bosses to add some more heat on the group. Before long they gave up on their play and even though we were about to open the large Baccarat table, they cashed in their remaining chips and left. This emphasises the importance of keeping and sharing information because without the newsletters and the mug shot books, we may have not known who they were and they may have taken us for a lot of money. It is also important who is searching the data because not everyone is skilled in facial recognition as this example shows. This is not to take anything away from the consultant who was hired because he did also have his areas of speciality but not everyone has the ability to recognise a subject from an old photograph. This brings me to the point, that in my opinion the best biometrical systems and database systems are only as good as the people who are operating them.
In early February 1999, six members of the oriental group were arrested in Las Vegas for marking cards on Blackjack and this almost certainly led to some of the group escaping to Europe. They continued on their European tour and we did hear of them appearing in several other countries including Greece where they were photographed more than two years later in May 2001. This was lucky for the members of this team, as the organization on the whole was being investigated back in the United States by the FBI and the Nevada Gaming Control Board. On the 30Th of October 2000 seventeen members of the group known as the Oriental Ring, which included the original six and which was led by Fung, who was said to be the master of the cheats, had been indicted or charged for activities related to the cheating on Baccarat at several casinos across the U.S. and Canada. Eight of the ring was arrested while nine others remained at large, including Big Brother and at least four other members, who were probably still in Europe. The organization was based in Asia but the members were residents of Nevada, California, Florida, New York, Canada and Venezuela. It was estimated that between the years of 1994 and 1999 they had scammed the casinos out of more than 2 Million dollars but on one occasion alone they had won $409,820, so in their five year reign they must have accumulated much more than the two million they were charged with. Of the eight who were arrested all were pleading guilty and went to prison for terms ranging from four months to 27 months. Although in the case of the latter offender his term was reduced when it was later appealed against because his extraordinary skilled eyesight, which he used to identify the marked cards, was not deemed as professionally honed to warrant the extra sentence. At least three members of the ring were ordered to pay more than 3,350.000 dollars in restitution and placed under supervised release for 3 years following their prison terms.
Big Brother and his European travelers had been spooked by the arrest of the first six team members in February 99 and had themselves been discovered scamming a casino in Canada, it was shortly after these incidents that they had decided to flee America and try their hand in Europe, where less emphasis at the time was placed on security and surveillance. Even today certain countries such as France, Germany and Spain are lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to expertise in casino surveillance, not every casino but many of them still do not employ surveillance officers, preferring to give a dual roll to security without giving them any formal training in game surveillance and gaming cheat detection.
Through their use of false passports and Id cards it remains unknown whether Big Brother is still plying his illicit trade in Europe or the new rich pickings in the fast developing Asian casino market but one thing´s for sure he won´t be returning to the United States any time soon.
Are Facebook amassing the largest facial recognition database in the world ?
First Published by J Connelly on eyeontheaction