Six defendants were arraigned in U.S. District Court in Marquette recently on charges of conspiracy and tricking video poker machines to steal nearly $28,000 from the Kewadin Casino Hotel and Convention Center in Sault Ste. Marie.
Defendants Joe Michael Koster, Chery Rose Steinsiek, Vannessa Dale Robb, Bruce Kirby Robb, Jeffrey Paul Neighbors and Michael Leo Patterson were charged in a federal indictment with one count of conspiracy and three counts of theft from a gaming establishment on Indian land.
All of the co-defendants live downstate or out-of-state.
The defendants allegedly conspired from July 2009 to June 25, 2011, to commit theft from the casino.
"It was part of the conspiracy that defendant Joe Michael Koster used a device known as a 'light wand' to blind the coin payout sensors in a video poker machine at the Kewadin Casino Hotel and Resort," the indictment states. "By using this device, defendant Koster tricked the video poker machine into paying out winnings well in excess of those to which Koster was entitled."
Federal prosecutors allege the other defendants assisted Koster in various ways, including acting as lookouts for security personnel and 'blockers' to prevent passersby, security personnel or security cameras from seeing Koster using the light wand, cashing out winnings at the casino cash cage, converting quarters to paper currency and making travel arrangements for members of the alleged conspiracy.
The indictment said Koster traveled from Oklahoma or downstate to Sault Ste. Marie, staying at various hotels where reservations had been made by himself or Steinsiek. Prosecutors allege Steinsiek also traveled to the Soo from downstate to stay in rooms booked by herself or Koster.
The remaining defendants are alleged to have traveled to Sault Ste. Marie from Oklahoma, staying at various hotels or recreational vehicle parks reserved by Koster, Steinsiek, Patterson or Robb.
Prosecutors said the defendants met at the casino where they allegedly operated the scheme to steal money from the video poker machines.
"Typically, the defendants stayed in Sault Ste. Marie from Thursday through Sunday of any given week to effectuate the scheme," the indictment read.
Prosecutors said Koster and one or more of his alleged co-conspirators stayed in Sault Ste. Marie on 52 weekends between July 2009 and June, 25, 2011.
The total amount allegedly stolen was $27,850, which prosecutors said was taken over three different weekends in June 2011.
According to the indictment, $9,177 was allegedly stolen using the light wand between June 9-12, 2011. Another $9,987 was allegedly taken from June 16-19, 2011, and $8,686 was allegedly stolen from June 23-25, 2011.
The next court appearances for the co-defendants were not scheduled as of Wednesday.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.