Episode Featuring Cop Who Arrested Louis – Jerry Longo –
And #COINMAN Screenwriter Jack Chaucer Airs This Weekend
Louis the Coin was a genius in metallurgy whose estimated haul from producing counterfeit slot tokens and chips easily exceeded $3 to $4 Million from casinos around the country. Some casinos admitted it, and many, most of which were in Nevada didn't.
He sat at the right hand of New England Mob Boss Raymond Patriarca – one of the most powerful gangsters in U.S. history – with direct access to his family members. Louis was a friend of theirs and talent, not a made man.
Louis was neither your average jeweler nor your average mob associate. He began his criminal career as a teenager and went on to earn a business degree from Providence College. In the years before his death, Louis attended community college in Rhode Island because he loved learning.
His expertise ranged from making jewelry and fixing printing presses to orthotics and of course, counterfeiting slot machine tokens and currency.
Colavecchio could duplicate or create almost anything made out of precious metals or stones. All he needed was a sample. The samples were analyzed professionally for content, weight and availability.
Foxwoods had been booming for about five years when Colavecchio set his sights on Connecticut; Mohegan Sun had just opened.
Colavecchio never talked about his friends – at least to police. But one of the important numbers in his personal phone directory was for Louis “Baby Shacks” Manocchio, then the reputed Mafia boss of Rhode Island. Manocchio lived in Providence’s Federal Hill neighborhood, where he once operated the Café Verdi restaurant. He was convicted of a mob hit in 1968, but that was overturned by the Rhode Island Supreme Court. In 2015 Manocchio was released from federal prison to a halfway house after serving five years for his role in an extortion plot.
Before Colavecchio could move on the casinos, he needed to do some homework. He also needed some serious equipment. Colavecchio's expert analysis revealed he needed the following: precious metals including copper, zinc and nickel; a 150-ton press from Italy; and laser-cutting tools to cut, shape and create dies to stamp out the coins. The coins were tokens, to be used in Las Vegas, Loughlin, Atlantic City and the Tribal Casinos in Connecticut.
When state police brought a sample of Colavecchio’s product to Foxwoods, the experts did not believe it was counterfeit. Some called it a masterpiece. State police advised the casino to keep track of inventory; the token counts were bound to be off because of the surplus. Meanwhile, the inventories at Atlantic City casinos were multiplying like rabbits.
“We know that he hit Vegas hard,” an investigator said. “But since many of the directors of security there were former FBI agents, they denied it. The problem did not exist. It never happened.”
Evidence mounted. A surveillance team comprised of detectives from Las Vegas, New Jersey and Connecticut waited for Colavecchio to hit New Jersey or Connecticut again. He chose New Jersey. This time he used only $100 tokens. It was easy. There were fewer machines to watch.
Colavecchio was arrested in Atlantic City in late December 1996. The pinch did not make the papers for about a week. In his car, Colavecchio had 750 pounds of counterfeit tokens, a fake police ID, disguises, a handgun, maps of casinos and various casino documents.
The FBI, Secret Service, three state police agencies and Providence police took inventory at Colavecchio’s Providence operation. The government had to rent two storage facilities to store all the loot that was seized.
Everyone took their turn arresting Colavecchio. He hired a former Rhode Island attorney general and a respected New London attorney as his lawyers.
Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun acknowledged finding a total of at least $50,000 in fake tokens. Investigators borrowed microscopes from local high schools to inspect mounds of tokens. It took them weeks just to determine that Colavecchio hit one Mohegan Sun jackpot for $2,000.
Worked out by Connecticut based Detectives, Secret Service and prosecutors, Colavecchio ended up in a conference room and getting VIP treatment at Mohegan Sun. His lawyers had worked out a deal. Colavecchio showed law enforcement how he did the job, and promised to help the casino tribes and the state ward off any future raids. They say he was a hero in Providence as well. Colavecchio served a relatively short federal sentence at Fort Dix in New Jersey and did not “rat out” any of his friends.
The New York Times and Providence Journal also reported Louis was hired by the U.S. Mint upon his release from federal prison for the token scheme a couple decades ago. That was because his dies in coins were of better quality than government production. The U.S. government paid Louis about $18,000 as a consultant.
Louis died on July 6, 2020 at his daughter’s home in Cranston, RI. He had gained a compassionate release from federal prison weeks earlier after serving time for counterfeiting $100 bills. He was 78, as noted in his New York Times obituary. He counted among his friends the detective who arrested him in Connecticut.
The Connecticut State Police Museum, in cooperation with The Mob Museum in Las Vegas, is developing a Louis the Coin exhibit. A detailed announcement about the exhibit is anticipated later this year.