A Tulsan helps crack down on casino crime

Monday, November 22nd 2004, 2:51 pm
By: News On 6

Some gaming officials are calling Tulsa the "ground zero" for slot machine cheaters. Two Tulsans face felony charges after Mississippi authorities say they caught them red-handed.

They had a high-tech device that tricks slot machines into overpaying jackpots. News on 6 anchor Tami Marler investigates why Tulsa is such a hotbed for casino crimes.

This started out as a story about two Tulsans arrested at Hollywood Casino in Mississippi. Tunica County authorities say they were caught using a "light-wand", a high-tech device that cheats slot machines.

Mississippi Gaming authorities tell me they'd been tracking William Drew and Catalina Hartsell for a couple of months. A little more digging, led me to Tom Carmichael. He's made quite a name in the gaming industry, a name he says he's now working hard to lose. "I had a complete change of heart and as far as cheating, so I thought I would undo a wrong. If you can do that, you know?"

Nevada gaming officials say Carmichael is notorious for developing devices that cheat slot machines. That "unsavory reputation" and felony convictions in three states have gotten him banned-for-life from Nevada casinoes. "Some of the largest casinos in the United States are in danger of being compromised by cheating devices.”

Carmichael estimates he developed 90% of the devices that continue to cheat casinos out of millions of dollars, devices just like the light wand authorities found with the Tunica suspects. "It's got a funny twist to it."

Carmichael recognizes the irony in what he's doing now. After 20 years of tricking slot machines, he's trying to sell his patent on a device, which cheats the cheater, ‘The Protector.’ "This was what I was afraid the casinos were going to do. So I had it in my mind prior to taking out a patent on it and developing it." Nevada gaming officials say they banned ‘The Protector,’ once they learned who invented it. They were afraid it could be converted into a cheating device; something Carmichael says is not possible. Besides that, he says he's a changed man, one who could help his former victims save a lot of money. "I gave up on the cheating side of it and I'm more or less trying to right a wrong, and naturally trying to make a living doing it."

Gaming officials say "light wands" and other cheating devices can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000. They also say Tulsa has a nationwide reputation for churning them out. Tom Carmichael says he's now working on a book deal about his rise to "riches and infamy" and his journey back to legitimacy.

He says he does "not" know either of the Tulsans busted in Tunica.