POSTED: 12:44 p.m. HST, May 23, 2012
LAS VEGAS >> A man who said a Craigslist ad led him to take part in an attempt to steal high-stakes chips from a Vegas Strip casino amid a cloud of pepper spray is facing an evidence hearing in June.
Michael Quinn Belton, 24, spoke in court Wednesday only to tell a Las Vegas judge that he understood the felony conspiracy, robbery and burglary charges filed against him. He was not asked to enter a plea.
The charges could get him decades in prison.
Police say Belton was nabbed attempting to take $115,000 worth of chips at the Bellagio resort Saturday night.
A judge scheduled the June 6 hearing to decide whether evidence is sufficient to send the case to state court for trial.
Belton's public defender, Jeremy Storms, declined comment Wednesday.
Police were still looking for two men in the caper, Officer Jose Hernandez said.
Belton said one placed an online advertisement for a job repossessing cars in Las Vegas. Police think that man, using the name Carlos Rodriguez, also rented Belton a hotel room at the Mandalay Bay resort several blocks away on the Las Vegas Strip.
The other man, who Belton said also used the name Carlos, escaped after witnesses say he pepper sprayed a blackjack dealer.
Police say Belton wore a dark wig and sunglasses into the Bellagio and was captured when he grabbed about two dozen $5,000 chips and was tackled by casino employees.
Belton later told detectives he took part in the robbery attempt because he was unemployed at home in Nuevo, Calif., about 65 miles east of Los Angeles, and his grandparents were ill.
Belton remained held on $60,000 bail at the Clark County jail in Las Vegas. He told KLAS-TV in a jailhouse interview (http://bit.ly/LBAsF6) that the robbery itself was a blur.
The second suspect pepper sprayed the dealer and ran away without taking any chips, police said.
Belton said he was tackled the moment he touched the chips.
No serious injuries were reported.
Once he was in custody, police said Belton asked detectives how much prison time he faced.
The last robber to make off with casino chips from the Bellagio, in December 2010, was sentenced to three to 11 years in state prison for armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. Anthony Michael Carleo wore a motorcycle helmet as he waved a gun and made off with $1.5 million worth of high-value chips. He was arrested trying to redeem a $25,000 chip.
Carleo got an additional six to 16 years in prison for another armed robbery at another Las Vegas casino. He blamed addictions to drugs and gambling.