The MGM lion is seen in front of the 23-story hotel during a preview tour of the MGM National Harbor, Friday, Dec. 2, 2016 in Oxon Hill, Md. The $1.4 billion National Harbor casino and resort, just outside the nation's capital, is scheduled to open this week. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Former casino dealer sentenced to 18 months in baccarat scheme

News Release US Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland

Scheme Resulted in a Loss of More than $1 Million

Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm sentenced Ming Zhang, age 32, of Alexandria, Virginia, yesterday to 18 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiracy to transport stolen funds, in connection with a scheme to defraud Maryland casinos by cheating at the game of baccarat.  The total loss caused by Zhang and his co-conspirators was $1,046,560.  Judge Grimm also entered an order requiring Zhang to pay restitution in the total amount of the loss. 

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur and Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office.  

According to Zhang’s plea agreement, Zhang worked as a dealer at Casino 1 in Maryland.  Zhang’s role in the conspiracy was to alert co-conspirator A as to when Zhang was scheduled to deal baccarat at the casino.  Baccarat is a card game in which players compare the value of two hands of cards—a “player” and a “dealer” hand.  Each card has a point value, and before any cards are dealt, bettors place bets on which hand will be closest to nine.  The dealer then distributes the cards between the player and dealer hands according to fixed rules. If a bettor knows the order in which cards appear in the deck, they can predict the outcome of any given baccarat hand with near-perfect accuracy and place their bets accordingly.

Specifically, Zhang admitted that he notified co-conspirator A that he would be dealing baccarat at Casino 1 on September 27, 2017.  Once co-conspirator A arrived at the baccarat table at which Zhang was dealing, Zhang exposed a portion of the baccarat deck to co-conspirator A and allowed the co-conspirator to take a picture of the deck, then placed that portion unshuffled into the “shoe,” which is a plastic box that keeps the cards in order until they are dealt.  Co-Conspirator A and other players placed large bets when the unshuffled portion of the deck came into play. 

On September 28, 2017, Zhang lied to investigators at Casino 1 about his knowledge of and participation in the cheating scheme.

Zhang admitted that between July and September 2017, he was present with co-conspirator A and other co-conspirators when they executed the scheme at Casino 2, which was also in Maryland.  In August 2017, Zhang met with co-conspirator A at a hotel near Casino 2 and learned how to execute the scheme.  Co-conspirator A agreed that Zhang would receive a percentage of the winnings for participating in the scheme and Zhang did benefit financially from executing the scheme.                  

Zhang worked for MGM National Harbor near Washington, D.C.

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur praised the FBI for its work in the investigation.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Molissa H. Farber and Erin B. Pulice, who prosecuted the case.

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