Mark Georgantas, age 56, was wheeled into the Las Vegas courtroom earlier this month, after being extracted from hiding in a remote, rural Utah area.
Why Was The Suspect in Hiding?
Georgantas was on the run to avoid being sent to prison in Las Vegas for 2-5 years on charges of scamming casino authorities. Authorities noticed Georgantas was missing when he missed his scheduled court date sentencing back in October. At that point, police began investigating his whereabouts and eventually discovered him in Utah. Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys agree this will be a tough situation for Georgantas to defend himself from.
Mark Georgantas considers himself a “creative gaming enthusiast” which, in layman’s terms, translates to scamming half a million dollars from tourists in connection with a “pure cash” promise of beating Las Vegas casino pit games. Those close to Georgantas also call him “Mr. Smooth.”
What Happened in Court?
Mr. Smooth was in a bit of pain (and a wheelchair) during his most recent, post-Utah hearing. After District Judge Linda Bell called his case to come forward, Georgantas struggled to stand up from his chair. Georgantas drew focus to the fact that he had not been able to reach his lawyer, Michael Pandullo, for over five months. He then asked Judge Bell to withdraw his October plea to one count of theft.
Georgantas did little to justify his disappearance into Utah. Instead, he focused on informing the judge of his hip pain, claiming “I can’t even walk now.” He then drew attention back to the fact that he hasn’t been able to get ahold of his attorney. “I’ve had attorneys, bondsman, family members, myself, over fifty times, trying to reach Mr. Pandullo,” he told the judge. “Even last night I called him. I heard him answer the phone, and he hung up… It’s a serious conflict.”
Another attorney stepped forward, Gary Modafferi, and told the judge of his plan to take over the case in defense of Mark Georgantas.
A Truly Las Vegas Crime
Georgantas must have truly been a smooth-talker. Reports of his most recent swindle include the fact that he convinced two men to give him over $350,000 so that he could beat a casino pit game for them. He boasted to the men that he regularly won at popular games such as baccarat, blackjack, craps, and roulette. He promised the men he would turn a healthy profit for them. For some strange and illogical reason, the men agreed to hand over the hundreds of thousands in cash to Georgantas. Of course, neither a profit nor their original hundreds of thousands of dollars were returned to them.
So what was Georgantas doing in Utah during his hiatus from the court sentencing process? Apparently, he was eating at Denny’s under the name Todd Wolf. As well, he was sleeping in a camper outside of Redmond on the property of Jess Fugal and his daughter. The Fugals were unaware of Georgantas’s presence until law enforcement showed up on their doorstep in late November searching for him.
A History of Felonies and Running
This was not Mark Georgantas’s first time running away from the law, or from swindling people out of their money. He has multiple felony convictions in the state of California and once even abandoned trial there in a similar fashion to the abandonment of his Las Vegas sentencing hearing. He has also escaped from a minimum-security through a storm drain.
After the recent debacle in Las Vegas and Utah, prosecutors are expected to request that a judge sentence Georgantas to up to 25 years in prison, without bail.