By RIO YAMAT (Associated Press)
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Las Vegas police officer accused of carrying out a trio of casino heists will face trial after a jury was finalized Monday afternoon.
Opening statements are set to begin Tuesday with prosecutors for the federal government expected to paint Caleb Rogers as a gambling addict who grew increasingly desperate under a crush of debt. The trial is anticipated to last through the end of the week.
Rogers, 35, is accused of stealing nearly $165,000 in the robberies over four months at casinos off the Las Vegas Strip. In at least one of the heists, he was armed with a weapon issued by the police department, prosecutors have said.
The officer’s attorney, Richard Pocker, has said the government’s evidence allegedly tying Rogers to two of the robberies is weak. He accused the FBI and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department detectives of pressuring two people, including Rogers’ brother, into identifying him as the suspect in the robberies to close out the cases.
Rogers made off with more than $85,000 in the first two robberies between November 2021 and January 2022 while his police colleagues spent months trying to catch the thief, investigators and prosecutors said.
In February 2022, authorities said, Rogers bagged an additional $79,000 in a third robbery at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, but security guards detained him outside following a brief struggle.
The robber’s approach was essentially the same in all three crimes, authorities said. He wore a face mask, dark clothing and black latex gloves. After cashiers handed over the money, he placed the cash inside a bag underneath his jacket. Then the suspect with the “unique gait” ran back to a “disposable vehicle,” limping “because of a problem with his leg,” according to a criminal complaint.
Mehmet Erdem, a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, whose expertise includes hotel and casino operations, said that casino heists are hard to successfully pull off.
“The chances you get caught and are identified is very high,” he said, because of a combination of robust casino security teams with uniformed guards and plainclothes officers and advancements in security technology including facial recognition software and high-definition cameras.
Rogers was a seven-year police veteran employed by the Las Vegas metro police as an active-duty patrol officer at the time of the robberies. He remains employed but is on unpaid leave “without police powers” pending the outcome of the criminal case, a department spokesperson said.
The witness list includes casino cashiers, security guards and Josiah Rogers, who identified his brother on video captured by casino security cameras during the first two robberies. Josiah Rogers has been granted immunity from prosecution.
Caleb Rogers, who was denied bail and has been in custody on four charges since his arrest, used his brother’s car in one of the robberies and instructed him to get rid of it shortly thereafter, according to court documents.
In the third alleged robbery, Rogers parked an unregistered minivan outside the casino and entered just before 7 a.m., while employees at the casino’s sportsbook prepared to open. He wore body armor underneath his clothing and was armed with a department-issued revolver with a yellow sticker covering its serial number, according to a criminal complaint.
He climbed over the counter, shoved one of two cashiers — a woman in her 60s — who was loading cash into registers from a plastic bag containing $119,000 and yelled that he had a gun, the complaint said. As he shoveled money into a bag hidden inside his jacket, loose bills floated onto the casino floor.
A group of security guards caught up to the suspect just after he made it past the casino’s exit with about $79,000 in his jacket. He drew his weapon and asked the guards if they were “willing to be shot over this” before one of them grabbed the gun, the complaint said.
When police officers arrived, Rogers allegedly announced his department personnel number, which authorities said is “a way police officers commonly identify themselves to one another.”
A detective later asked Rogers if anything could have been done to prevent the robberies, according to the complaint.
“Nothing,” Rogers said.