A suburban Detroit man who wore a prosthetic mask to appear older as he fraudulently withdrew money from other people’s bank accounts at casino ATMs has pled guilty to charges of wire fraud and identity fraud. John Colletti, 56, of Harper Woods, Michigan, has a sentencing hearing on July 7 after making his plea on Tuesday. He could face more than 20 years in prison.
Colletti’s identity-theft and fraud spree began in April 2019 and continued until March 2020, when he was arrested in Kansas. Most of Colletti’s thefts occurred at Detroit’s MGM Grand casino and other Michigan properties. In each instance, Colletti donned a prosthetic face mask that made him appear older, while adding to the disguise with a hat, glasses, and the like.
Colletti’s spree resulted in the theft of at least $125,740, which he was ordered to repay to the ATMs’ owner and operator, Global Payments Gaming Services Inc. (GPGS). Most of his thefts — nearly $100K worth — came during several weeks in April and May of 2019. All the victims were members of GPGS’s VIP Preferred Program, and the company had already refunded individual victims for the thefts from their banking accounts.
Stolen IDs purchased online
The MGM Grand in Detroit quickly realized it had a serial thief on its hands, identifying the likely fraudster via security footage. The case began with the Michigan State Police and eventually involved the FBI, which was able to track back the victims’ common theme.
The FBI eventually determined that Colletti purchased the IDs of his victims on the internet, then created fake drivers licenses and other identification to gain access to their accounts in the GPGS system.
Investigators recovered roughly 300 forged IDs with Colletti’s prosthetic-mask image as its photo following his arrest. On a flash drive recovered in Kansas, where he was arrested, authorities also found a spreadsheet with identifying information for over 1,000 would-be victims.
Colletti ditched prosthetic mask in restroom
Colletti’s March 2020 arrest at the Prairie Band Casino and Resort in Mayetta, Kansas, included a foiled escape attempt. By that time, images of Colletti in his “old man” disguise had likely been circulated to casinos across the country (though that was not confirmed in press reports) and Prairie Band security quickly ID’d the suspected fraudster who had already made several ATM withdrawals.
The security guards confronted Colletti and asked him to return to the cashier, but on the way there, Colletti veered into a restroom where he attempted to ditch his disguise. He removed his prosthetic mask, an outer layer of clothes including a straw hat, a walker, two fake Michigan drivers licenses, and approximately $11,000 of the $20,000 he had already withdrawn from the casino’s ATMs.
Security also recovered a key to a rented Nissan car, where authorities found additional items linking Colletti to the thefts, including a flash drive and four more prosthetic masks, among other incriminating items. He was quickly identified to MGM Grand Detroit and to the authorities investigating the Michigan frauds, who confirmed his likely identity. Following Colletti’s arrest, he was extradited back to Michigan to face the charges there.
Timothy Waters, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, said, “John Colletti stole the identities of dozens of innocent people, dragging them all into his criminal scheme. The impacts of identity theft are serious and far-reaching for victims, and the FBI will work hard to ensure anyone who engages in this type of conduct is held accountable.”