Inside the case against Harper Woods man accused of using elaborate disguises to steal money

Intricate scheme took place at MGM Grand Detroit casino and Kansas casino

New court documents are giving us more information into an intricate scheme federal authorities say took place at the MGM Grand Detroit casino.

DETROIT – New court documents are giving us more information into an intricate scheme federal authorities say took place at the MGM Grand Detroit casino.

Counterfeit driver’s license, quick changes in the bathroom and the use of prosthetics to hide the identity of the person accused in these crimes were all involved. Tens of thousands of dollars were stolen.

UPDATE April 6: Harper Woods man accused of stealing money from casinos pleads guilty to wire fraud, identify fraud

The suspect, a Harper Woods man, is behind bars. John Christopher Colletti is accused of using prosthetics, and in some cases, full face masks and props to appear like an elderly man as he ripped off casinos.

“The guy thought he was really sharp and used other people’s money,” said former Detroit Police Department Assistant Chief Steve Dolunt.

According to the federal complaint, Colletti operated the scheme when he visited the casino. He used elaborate disguises when he took money out of a Global Payment Kiosk (GPK) that was located inside the casino.

READ: Harper Woods man accused of stealing nearly $100,000 from MGM Detroit

“There are cameras everywhere. I’m sure in his mind he thought he was sharp as a tack. But instead he was sharp as a bolt,” Dolunt said.

To use a GPK, you must be enrolled and are able to access your personal checking account. There is a multi-factor authentication, including a person’s driver’s license, the last four digits of their social security number and the last four digits of their phone number.

Dolunt said that much of that information is found on the dark web. Court documents state that investigators identified at least 10 victims of identity theft at the casino back in May of 2019 -- A total loss of about $98,000.

“It can destroy your credit, you could lose your house, it could destroy your marriage. It could destroy your business,” Dolunt said.

During one visit to the casino, documents state Colletti made 15 cash transactions in 36 minutes for a total of $30,000.

Documents state that Colletti inserted a counterfeit drivers license into the GPK. After completing the transactions, agents said Colletti would get into a cab outside of the casino. He was dropped off in the Greektown area and then make his way inside the Pegasus restaurant where he would change in the bathroom. Approximately 10 minutes later, video outside the restaurant shows Colletti exit without the disguise and carrying a plastic bag, then got into another taxi and took off.

Federal agents said Colletti didn’t just hit the casino in Detroit. He took his operation to Kansas and tried to pull the same thing at a casino there on a reservation, where he was caught at the Prairie Band Casino.

When he was arrested, police found counterfeit driver’s licenses in his pocket. During a search of his vehicle, they found four more prosthetic face masks and books on how to get away with committing a crime.

In total, they found 83 driver’s licenses, 14 insurance cards in multiple names, 19 players cards from various casinos, mostly from the MGM Grand, among other items. They even found an excel spreadsheet with more than 1,000 names and photos of himself trying on prosthetic masks.

“Of course, then he gets caught and he is like, ‘Woe is me. How did they catch me?’ You got caught because you were greedy,” Dolunt said.

Colletti is currently behind bars in Kansas, facing federal charges of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft among other charges.

According to court documents, federal agents also searched a Detroit storage unit and found copies of 48 driver’s licenses, a box for a mobility walker and mannequin heads used to display prosthetic face masks.

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About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.