Article published Nov 5, 2006
A Rhode Island man was arrested Wednesday and charged with counterfeiting casino slot tokens.
Rhode Island State Police, Connecticut State Police, New Jersey State Police, the FBI, Secret Service and other investigative agencies executed a search warrant on the Pawtucket, R.I., home of Louis "The Coin" Colavecchio and found hundreds of manufactured slot tokens for Connecticut, New Jersey and Las Vegas casinos.
Also seized were dyes, molds, chemicals, various metals for the manufacture of coins, machinery for counterfeiting and $5,100 in cash, police said.
Another search was done at Colavecchio's business, Cambridge Orthotics in North Providence, and the same items were taken into custody along with detailed records.
The tokens were manufactured for both Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, along with about a dozen out-of-state casinos.
The Other Side Of The Coin
Law & Justice In Everyday Life, 2nd edition
Chapter 7, Cops and Perps
Louis Colavecchio is not your average jeweler.
The North Providence, R.I. entrepreneur brought his talents to Connecticut several years ago. He had already hit Las Vegas. The casinos will never be the same.
Colavecchio can duplicate or create almost anything made out of precious metals or stones. All he needs is a sample.
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 Shanks" Manocchio, the reputed Mafia boss of Rhode Island. Manocchio lives 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. Manocchio's only other brush with the law came three years ago when he gave his mother a dishwasher and a refrigerator stolen from Connecticut.
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, Atlantic City and Connecticut.
When state police brought a sample of Colevecchio'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 told me. "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, 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 as his lawyer.
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.
Colavecchio ended up in a conference room and getting VIP treatment at Mohegan Sun. His lawyer 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 short sentence and did not "rat out" any of his friends.
Law & Justice In Everyday Life by Andy Thibault at Amazon.com
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