It all reads like something from a movie based in the future: A money-hungry guy comes across a set of infrared eyewear that helps him see marked cards. He then goes into a casino, plays some poker, and wins big.
Believe it or not, that is a plot that happened in real life, and 56-year-old Italian Stefano Ampollini was the main character. However, he did not ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after with his winnings. Instead, Ampollini was sentenced to two years’ in jail in the French town of Grasse for cheating in casinos on two occasions back in 2011.
The cheat-tainted wins occurred at the Les Princes casino in the French Rivera resort of Cannes. Before the first ‘win,’ Ampollini purchased a pair of infrared contact lenses online from a distributor in China at a cost of 2,000 Euros (around US $2,700).
According to the court, Ampollini was also in kahoots with two workers at the casino, who marked the cards with invisible ink before they were used at tables where the Italian was seated.
Wait, there’s still more to the story.
Ampollini also had another cheating friend with him who would confirm the right cards by sniffing and snorting. The elaborate plan initially worked, with a total of 70,000 Euros (around US $94,500) being won by Ampollini, which he dutifully shared amongst the group.
The big win did not go unnoticed by the casino, who described it as being done “very easily” and they notified police of what they perceived as highly dubious behaviour. Police then investigated Ampollini and his friends’ activities and discovered that the win was not due to him having a lucky night.
However, the casino and police were in for a bigger treat as Ampollini once again returned to the casino in October 2011 for another shot at a big win, only this time he was on a solo mission. He was able to net 21,000 Euros (around US $28,300) that time, but he was arrested at the end of the night by police who were waiting for him outside of the casino.
The judge presiding over the case, Marc Joando, expressed his amazement at Ampollini and his crew’s crime, particularly at the sophisticated way they were able to pull it off. It wasn’t sophisticated enough to evade capture, though, and the Italian was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and fined 100,000 Euros (around US $135,000).
Two other Italians, 55-year-old Gianfranco Tirrito and 57-year-old Rocco Grassanno, were also jailed and fined for their part in the scheme.