LAS VEGAS – A California man was sentenced Wednesday to two to five years in a Nevada prison for his role in a botched grab-and-run casino chip heist last May at the Bellagio resort on the Las Vegas Strip.
Michael Quinn Belton, 25, of Nuevo, Calif., apologized in court and gave Clark County District Court Judge Kathleen Delaney a letter saying he wanted to enter the military and turn his life around.
"I'm sorry about what I did," Belton said in a raspy voice as he stood shackled to other jail inmates in the courtroom. "It was poor judgment on my part."
Belton could have faced up to 21 years in prison, but a presentencing report recommended no more than seven years.
Delaney chose a more lenient sentence but rejected a bid by Belton's public defense lawyer, Dedree Miles, for probation for what Miles called a "stupid and foolish" robbery attempt at a Las Vegas resort featured in the 2001 movie "Ocean's Eleven."
"I don't know what was going on in his mind," Miles said of her client, who told police he took part in the robbery attempt because he was unemployed and needed money for his grandparents, who were terminally ill.
The grandparents have since died, Miles said. No Belton family members were in the courtroom.
Belton told police the plot was hatched by a man who posted an Internet ad offering a job repossessing vehicles in the Las Vegas area, then recruited Belton and another man for the robbery once they got to town.
Police never found the man who they said used the name Carlos Rodriguez when he rented a room for Belton at the Mandalay Bay resort.
"When he found out what the real job was, he agreed," Miles said Wednesday. "At that moment of desperation, maybe he was thinking, 'Hey, it's in the movies. Maybe it's something we could possibly get away with."
Prosecutor Danae Adams said Belton and the other would-be robber wore wigs and sunglasses into the Bellagio, and the other man sprayed a pepper spray-type substance at a blackjack dealer and player before Belton snatched $115,000 worth of chips and tried to run.
A casino supervisor tackled Belton and retrieved the 23 chips worth $5,000 each. The other man got away.
The female casino dealer and customer told investigators the spray burned their eyes. But officials said they weren't seriously hurt. Adams said investigators never determined what the substance was.
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.