When it comes to tourist destinations, casinos are simultaneously one of the world’s most popular and controversial attractions. People can spend their time gambling for leisure inside casinos, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of losing money and putting yourself in financial peril.
Given that the establishments house millions of dollars and are often tied to organized crime, it’s almost inevitable that when a new casino opens, crime rates in the area will tend to rise. Over the years, casinos have been home to their fair share of unsolved mysteries, whether murders, disappearances, or successful heists.
10 The Bill Brennan Heist
In the popular movie Ocean’s Eleven, a large group of thieves orchestrate a complicated heist in which they steal millions of dollars from a casino. In real life, it’s insanely difficult to rob a casino because of their many layers of security. However, one of the few successful real-life casino heists was remarkably simple.
For four years, Bill Brennan was employed as a sports book cashier at the Stardust Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. On the morning of September 22, 1992, Brennan showed up for work as usual. However, during his lunch break, Brennan managed to walk away from the casino with $507,361 in stolen cash and chips. When police raided Brennan’s apartment, he was nowhere to be found, and he quickly became one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives.
Brennan did not draw any attention to himself during the heist. It’s believed that he carefully studied the casino’s security systems, as no surveillance footage captured him stealing the money or leaving the establishment. According to those who knew him, Brennan was an unremarkable loner who never caused any problems, but seemed to undergo an attitude change when management refused to promote him to a supervisory position. This was because Brennan had started hanging around with a regular bettor at the casino whom management considered shady and distrustful.
Curiously, this bettor also disappeared a few months after the heist, leading to speculation that he and Brennan had orchestrated the crime together. If Brennan did have an accomplice, it’s possible he might have been double-crossed and killed for the stolen money. But until Bill Brennan is found, this will remain one of the most infamous unsolved heists of all time.
9 The Murder Of Terri McClure
On January 14, 1983, 62-year old Terri McClure left her home in Reno to attend the wedding of her son, Tim, in Lake Tahoe. After Tim was married, everyone celebrated by doing some gambling at a casino before Terri left the wedding party to drive back to Reno. The following day, Tim visited his mother’s home, discovered she was missing, and reported her disappearance to the police.
Two days later, Terri was found dead inside her vehicle, which was located in the parking lot of a casino in Carson City. She had been shot twice in the head. Investigators soon named Tim as the prime suspect in his mother’s murder after learning he was the beneficiary of a $10,000 life insurance policy and finding some strange discrepancies in his story.
After walking Terri to her car on his wedding night, Tim claimed he spent the next two hours gambling alone, but no one could corroborate his alibi. When Tim and his wife took polygraph tests, the results indicated deception from both of them. The strangest discrepancy was that Tim apparently called a credit card company to cancel one of Terri’s cards before she even went missing. Tim always maintained that he canceled the card three days after his mother disappeared but that the employee mistakenly wrote down the wrong date.
Years later, Tim personally requested that the TV show Unsolved Mysteries profile his story. This compelled investigators to rebuild their case against Tim, and he was charged with his mother’s murder in September 1992. However, the Nevada District Attorney determined that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Tim, so the case against him was dismissed with prejudice. This means that even if new evidence surfaces, Tim McClure cannot be charged with his mother’s murder again. The case remains unsolved.
8 The Disappearance Of George Jay Vandermark
In 1976, George Jay Vandermark worked as the slot machines supervisor at the Stardust Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. On May 18, the Nevada Gaming Control Board staged an impromptu raid on the casino and uncovered an elaborate scheme which involved skimming over $7 million from the slot machines for the Mafia. Vandermark slipped out of the casino during the raid and eventually fled the city. He had lied to the Mafia about how much money he had been skimming from the machines and had kept $3 million for himself.
Vandermark’s son, Jeff, was told by the Control Board that his father’s life was in danger, but they could offer him protection. Claiming his father was hiding in Mexico, Jeff agreed to contact his father and convince him to turn himself in. Weeks later, Jeff contacted investigators and claimed his father was willing to come forward and accept their offer. Later that day, Jeff Vandermark was found dead inside his apartment with a crushed skull. His murder has not been solved.
George Jay Vandermark never returned to Las Vegas, but there were verified sightings of him living under an assumed name in Phoenix during the next few months. Sometime that summer, Vandermark vanished without a trace. Reports later surfaced that he had been murdered at his residence by mobsters, who subsequently buried him in the desert. However, no one has been officially charged with the crime, and Vandermark’s body has not been found.
7 The Disappearance Of Trevor Angell
In 2000, 28-year-old Trevor Angell lived in Calgary, Alberta, and worked as a long-haul truck driver, transporting meat and produce between Canada and the US. On September 19, Angell delivered a load of beef to Los Angeles before picking up a new cargo of bananas to take back to Canada. At some point during the trip, Angell spoke to his wife on the phone, claiming he hadn’t slept in four days and was planning to quit the trucking business after delivering one last load.
On the morning of September 22, Angell spoke with a dispatcher, which was the last communication anyone had with him. Shortly after, Angell disappeared. His abandoned truck was discovered in the parking lot of Whiskey Pete’s Hotel and Casino in Primm, Nevada.
Angell liked to gamble and was known for making rest stops at Whiskey Pete’s during his trips. The abandoned truck had been fueled up, and nothing was missing from the cargo. But Angell’s empty wallet was discovered in the front seat. Over the course of one day, Angell’s ATM card had been used a total of nine times to withdraw his entire paycheck from his bank account. No one knows if Angell himself used the card. But hours after the last ATM transaction, a waitress claimed to have served him some oatmeal inside the casino, which he paid for with pocket change.
Witnesses also reported seeing Angell in the casino parking lot, looking sick and disoriented. There were unconfirmed sightings of Angell in Texas in December 2001, leading to speculation that he may have staged his own disappearance. However, there are still no answers in this baffling missing person’s case.
6 The Murder Of Jodie Bordeaux
In 1997, Jodie and Shawn Bordeaux lived together at a rural farmhouse on the Kickapoo Reservation near Powhattan, Kansas. They were both employed by the local Native-owned casino, Golden Eagle, and Jodie was seven months pregnant with her first child.
On November 21, the couple was spending the night at their farmhouse when an unknown assailant fired a barrage of shots through the windows. One of the bullets struck Jodie in the head. She was killed instantly, and her unborn child could not be saved. While there have always been numerous potential suspects in Jodie’s murder, her husband believes the crime was connected to a situation from their workplace.
After being hired by the Golden Casino, Jodie eventually worked her way up to staff supervisor of the slot-machine department. However, there may have been internal resentment about the promotion, as some employees did not appreciate that Julie, who was not a Native American, got such a prominent management position in a Native-owned casino.
Jodie frequently had problems with one particularly insubordinate employee and reported him to the casino management board. When Jodie fired the employee, he filed a grievance with the tribal council, which ultimately cost Jodie her job. Jodie kept petitioning the council to rehire her and started to receive threatening anonymous phone calls before her murder.
In spite of the suspicious circumstances surrounding Jodie’s death, no evidence has ever been found to tie anyone to the crime. There is also believed to be a veil of secrecy on the Kickapoo Reservation preventing people from coming forward with crucial information.
5 The Disappearance Of George Tsolakis
On the evening of February 23, 1992, 38-year-old George Tsolakis, a married father of three, phoned his wife from a sports club in Marlborough, Connecticut, and said he was on his way home. Before he got there, he vanished without a trace.
At the time, Tsolakis’s financial life was a mess, so it was plausible that he might have disappeared voluntarily. He was approximately $200,000 in debt, with a large chunk of that total in unpaid back taxes. He faced possible jail time for writing bad checks and failing to pay court-ordered restitution. He had also lost his pizza parlor businesses for operating them without a permit. Then there were the rumors that Tsolakis had illegal gambling debts, so it wasn’t surprising that his car eventually turned up at a casino he frequented.
On March 20, Tsolakis’s abandoned vehicle was discovered in the parking lot of the Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard. It was covered with a large quantity of snow, which seemed to indicate it had been parked there for some time.
When employees of the casino were questioned, they reported seeing Tsolakis at the establishment on numerous occasions throughout the previous month. One witness claimed she saw Tsolakis win some money six days after his disappearance. Other employees saw Tsolakis in the presence of two unidentified men, and another staff member allegedly issued him a buffet ticket four days before his vehicle was found.
Unfortunately, while the casino did have surveillance cameras, the footage was erased before investigators could look at it and confirm that Tsolakis had been there. But if he had been at the casino, where did he go without his vehicle? After more than 20 years, there is still no trace of George Tsolakis.
4 The Horizon Casino Heist
At approximately 4:00 AM on November 9, 2003, a slot attendant at the Horizon Casino in Vicksburg, Mississippi, stepped outside an employee entrance for a break. He was shocked to encounter an unidentified masked man wearing a Dallas Cowboys jacket who pulled out a gun and forced the employee to let him inside. The armed man then ordered the attendant to lead him to a nearby cash cage, where other employees were working. The perpetrator announced that two bombs had been planted in the building and demanded that the employees hand over the money in the cage. They complied, and the robber left the building with approximately $60,000.
After the heist, the casino was evacuated, and a shoe box wrapped in duct tape was found in the loading dock. However, this “bomb” turned out to be a fake. To complicate matters, an hour before the robbery, an anonymous caller had phoned in a false bomb threat to the Rainbow Casino 6 kilometers (4 mi) away. If that wasn’t enough, a fire had been started at a local elementary school and was being fought around the same time the heist was taking place.
Investigators believe that the robber personally called in the fake bomb threat and started the school fire to create multiple diversions and keep the authorities occupied while he conducted his heist. The scheme obviously worked. After nearly 12 years, investigators have not made any progress at identifying the perpetrator or recovering the stolen money.
3 The Murder Of Gail Anne Thompson
On May 3, 1996, 56-year-old Gail Anne Thompson and her husband, Bobby, left their home in Middleton, Idaho, to spend the weekend gambling in Jackpot, Nevada. They were accompanied by another couple and stayed at Cactus Pete’s Resort Casino.
The following evening, Bobby and the couple went up to their hotel rooms while Gail continued gambling in the casino. Bobby claimed that he woke up the next morning and was surprised to discover his wife was not in their bed. He and the other couple searched all the casinos in Jackpot, but could not find any trace of her. Bobby also filed a missing persons report with the local police. However, his friends needed to get home, so Bobby drove them back to Middleton before the issue was resolved.
On the morning of May 6, Gail’s body was discovered in an abandoned lot. Her head had been bashed with an unknown object, and her throat was cut. But the scene looked staged. Even though her pants were down around her knees, there were no signs of sexual assault. Gail’s purse, wedding ring, and a folded $20 bill were also left at the scene. However, there had been some activity on her ATM and credit cards the day before she was found.
Investigators noted that Bobby seemed strangely unconcerned when his wife went missing. The other couple claimed there was some animosity between Gail and Bobby because she wanted to move to Kansas to live closer to her family. As this was Bobby’s fifth marriage, he raised some eyebrows by getting remarried only three months after Gail’s death.
However, Bobby died in 2000. So if he had any answers about Gail’s unsolved murder, he took them to his grave.
2 The Disappearance Of Jean Moore
In 1992, 59-year-old Jean Moore lived in Apple Valley, California, with her fiance, Al Henderson. On April 6, the couple decided to take a three-day trip to Laughlin, Nevada. According to Al, they planned to check out of their hotel and head home on April 9, but Jean wanted to spend that morning playing her favorite slot machine at a nearby casino. Al claimed that he dropped her off at the casino with the understanding that she would meet him at their hotel later. When Jean didn’t show up, Al returned to the casino but couldn’t find her.
Eventually, he contacted the police to report Jean missing. However, Jean’s children from a previous marriage never thought too highly of Al and came to believe he was responsible for her disappearance.
Indeed, some disturbing discrepancies emerged in Al’s story. When police checked the casino’s surveillance tapes from the morning Jean supposedly disappeared, Al could be seen walking through the building at various points, but Jean was nowhere in the footage. In fact, there was no video evidence that Jean ever set foot in that casino.
Police began to question where the couple actually was during their supposed three-day trip to Laughlin. The night before Jean’s disappearance, Al made a phone call from Laughlin to his bookkeeper, who claimed that she briefly spoke with Jean. However, that same day, a witness claimed to have seen Jean and Al together at a gas station in Apple Valley.
In spite of these problematic contradictions, the case went cold. Al Henderson passed away in 2001. Jean Moore has never been found.
1 The Disappearance Of Agnes Le Roux
In 1977, 29-year-old Agnes Le Roux was the heiress of the Palais de la Mediterranee, a popular casino in Nice, France. The casino was operated by Le Roux’s mother, who refused to allow her daughter to withdraw her inheritance. Le Roux then decided to sell off her vote on the administrative council to Jean-Dominique Fratoni, a rival casino owner with Mafia ties. This allowed Fratoni to buy out the Palais de la Mediterranee, and Le Roux received a payoff of three million francs.
The hostile takeover was orchestrated by a lawyer named Jean-Maurice Agnelet, who was also Le Roux’s lover, and the three million francs ended up in their joint bank accounts. On October 30, Le Roux was seen driving out of Nice before she mysteriously vanished.
Allegedly, Le Roux left behind a note stating that she wanted Agnelet to look after everything. However, Agnelet had another mistress, and Le Roux’s payoff money was transferred to the joint accounts of Agnelet and the other woman. Although the mistress initially provided him with an alibi for the day of Le Roux’s disappearance, she later confessed that the alibi was false.
Agnelet was eventually charged with Le Roux’s murder. He was acquitted in 2006, but the verdict was overturned on appeal. Agnelet received a 20-year sentence. Then the European Court of Human Rights overruled the verdict again, and Agnelet was retried in 2014. This time, Agnelet’s son testified against him, claiming his father and mother had both shared incriminating details about Le Roux’s murder. As a result, Agnelet’s conviction was upheld.
There is still controversy surrounding the case, as Agnelet’s ex-wife has discounted her son’s story. A former mobster also claims Le Roux’s murder was a Mafia hit and that Agnelet is completely innocent. Whatever the real truth, Agnes Le Roux’s body has never been found.
Robin Warder is a budding Canadian screenwriter who has used his encyclopedic movie knowledge to publish numerous articles at Cracked.com. He is also the co-owner of a pop culture website called The Back Row and recently wrote the award-winning script for a short film called Indefinite Late Fee. Feel free to contact him here.