Security goes Global
for Las Vegas firm

Jun 22, 2004 6:55 AM

The advent of the 21st century has created new dimensions for security in the gaming industry. Expanding jurisdictions has meant lots more work for those who check up on casino license seekers. And the spread of terrorism, and crimes in and around Native American casinos have demanded a new approach to security.

It’s also provided enough work to make Peter Maheu’s Global Intelligence Network (GIN) expand exponentially. GIN has 160 investigators — just in Nevada — and scores more contacts in more than 70 countries. Maheu’s Las Vegas staff includes people who speak Russian, Mandarin and Ukranian.

Ukranian? That former Soviet republic is scrapping its gaming laws, Maheu explains, "so all gaming there is on the honor system" until new regulations are adopted. "We have just translated their proposed regulations," he says.

"We do 4,000 background investigations a year," he says, "and due diligence in scores of other countries. We even did a study paper on how gaming is conducted in Macau. We studied business and trends in Macau."

Those "due diligence" matters involve checking on business habits and acquaintances of would-be licensees and key personnel in other businesses.

"They must expand the scope of their background checks," Maheu warns. "Evidently they are not sufficient now. A lot of states do not report criminal arrests to the National Criminal Information Center," as noted lately with many Nevada sex offenders’ names not being added to the national lists.

In the last few weeks, two nuclear scientists were caught listing advanced college degrees they hadn’t earned. "Investigators can’t accept anything at face value," Maheu stresses. "We look into the backgrounds of people you’re associated with, companies you’re doing business with. In the last year, we’ve found six or eight people who claimed bachelor’s or master’s degrees in college that were not granted. It’s a common problem."

He tells his clients they must check out the people who do their investigations, too — "and one client then checked us out."

Computers are only so much help in background checks, he notes. Most records before 1990 are filed in courthouse boxes, not computer files, so manual checks must be made. "Criminal case logs haven’t caught up yet," he says.

He was asked how a Nevada man convicted of robbing 26 banks could get a job this year as a private security guard. "He probably got a temporary work card," Maheu explains, "which might be good for 90 days before the old records are found." (The bank robber no longer works in security.)

The Treasury Department’s new anti-counterfeiting currency won’t make a dent in money laundering, Maheu says. "Between $300 billion and $500 billion is being laundered every year. That means they can’t account for $200 billion of it."

But what about the high-tech greenbacks with watermarks and coded strips in the paper? "Why would a guy who wants to launder $100 million buy $20 bills?" Maheu asks.

Russian organized crime owns 500 banks, Maheu says, and it’s nearly impossible to delve into their banking trust companies to determine true ownership. That makes money laundering simple: "You carry a debit card for $100 million through customs, and deposit the money in one of their banks. Why mess around with laundering money in a casino where you get the transaction reported when you can take the discount card to a bank in Russia?"

He adds that Russia’s organized criminals "are the biggest money launderers in Mexico. There are 4,000 Russian shell companies in Cyprus, and they use the shells to transfer money."

Organized criminals are getting better and better at hacking into computers. "By the year 2010," he says, "organized crime from Russian and Asia will be able to infiltrate every computer system in the United States."

Jurisdictional problems are giving headaches to California county sheriffs in areas near Native American casinos, Maheu adds. "Consider a stolen car that ends up on an Indian (federal) reservation. The sheriff gets the blame for a crime he has no jurisdiction over, and he can’t go after."

These are but a few of the types of business Maheu courts at Global Intelligence Network. There are his "mystery shopper" workers, who check employees’ performance, identify standout workers (and bad ones) by checking "employee integrity."

GSI has also done terrorism assessments for Southern Nevada’s water districts and provided "services" to many top-level gaming executives "in Las Vegas and elsewhere."

Of course, due to the nature of the work, his gaming clients often require their identities to be kept in confidence.