Las Vegas police officer’s brother testifies against him about ‘desperate’ casino heist
Jul 13, 2023, 11:54 AM
(Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The younger brother of a Las Vegas police officer testified against him Thursday, painting a clear picture for the jury of the how the two successfully pulled off a casino heist on the Strip.
“Caleb told me that it was gonna be his operation and when it was happening I had to do everything he said because he had the knowledge and the skill,” Josiah Rogers said, referring to his brother’s work in law enforcement.
Josiah Rogers admitted on the stand that he was the getaway driver in one of the heists, using an unregistered pickup truck with no plates. He said he knew his brother “desperately” needed money after a longtime struggle with gambling. While he testified Thursday, the brothers avoided eye contact. Josiah Rogers has been granted immunity from prosecution for sharing details about how they rehearsed and then carried out the November 2021 robbery at Red Rock Casino.
Prosecutors for the federal government have argued that the evidence in three robberies between 2021 and 2022 points to one man: Caleb Rogers, who was employed as an active-duty patrol officer at the time of the heists.
Previous witnesses, A jury of nine women and five men is expected to start deliberations by the end of this week.
The government’s evidence focused on the third robbery in the series targeting casinos off the Las Vegas Strip, when Rogers was arrested in February 2022 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.
Prosecutors have said Rogers, 35, stormed the Rio hotel-casino’s sportsbook, shoved a 63-year-old cashier out of the way, and threatened to use a gun while he stuffed $79,000 into a drawstring bag hidden inside his jacket. Within minutes, prosecutors said, the robber was tackled by a group of security guards outside the casino, and detained after a brief struggle.
Rogers was wearing a wig and carrying a loaded revolver issued by the police department at the time of his arrest, prosecutors said.
Police lapel video played during the trial showed Rogers being folded into the back of a patrol car outside the casino. In the video, he identifies himself by his Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department personnel number.
“I’m a ‘P’ number,” he says in the video. In other words, prosecutors said, Rogers was saying he is a police officer.
A spokesperson for the police department said Rogers has been on unpaid leave without police powers since his arrest, pending the outcome of the case.
Brian Walter, the lead detective on the case, said the breadth of evidence collected in the robbery at the Rio helped his team close out two other unsolved heist cases — one in November 2021 at the Red Rock Casino and another two months later at the Aliante Casino.
In one of the robberies, within 15 minutes of parking outside the casino, Josiah Rogers said his brother returned and climbed through the passenger side window as the two sped away. On a dark stretch of highway, they quickly removed a gray car cover with window cutouts and drove back to their apartment.
Josiah Rogers said his brother later counted cash totaling more than $78,000 at their dining room table and offered him a $30,000 payout. He described their relationship as very close, having shared rooms throughout childhood and living together again in Las Vegas in 2021 before Josiah Rogers moved back to Columbus, Ohio, their hometown.
The way he ran with a limp in his left leg also betrayed his identity, Walter said. Internally at the police department, they had nicknamed the case the “Kangaroo Bandit” investigation because of the robber’s gait.
Even before Rogers was arrested, Walter and his team already had linked the first two heists based on those similarities.
Walter said the robber used the same “unique” method in all three crimes, down to the type of clothing he wore to conceal his identity, to the way he would keep his hands in his jacket pockets until he had the cash to “avoid spreading forensic evidence.” Then, Walter said, the robber would unzip his jacket and place the money inside a drawstring bag hidden underneath his clothing.
During closing arguments Richard Pocker, the officer’s lawyer, is expected to poke holes in the government’s case and undermine the evidence that prosecutors say links Rogers to the two earlier robberies.
Pocker has said security images from those robberies that show only a sliver of the suspect’s face and a grainy image of a car don’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Rogers was responsible for those heists and “aren’t as conclusive as the government would like them to be.”
“Without more,” he previously said, that evidence “doesn’t mean a darn thing.”
Before trial, Pocker accused the FBI and Las Vegas police detectives of pressuring two people, including Roger’s brother, into identifying his client as the suspect in the security footage because they wanted to close out the unsolved robberies at the Aliante Casino and the Red Rock Casino.
But prosecutors said that investigators did look into other suspects, most notably the “Bellagio Bandit.” Anthony Carleo served prison time for a brazen robbery in 2010 of $1.5 million in gambling chips from the iconic Bellagio hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.
Walter said that Carleo was ruled out as a suspect after they obtained his cellphone records, which showed he was at home in Pueblo, Colorado, at the time of one of the robberies and in Jackson, Florida, during the other.