Not only is a group of men charged in the theft of $2 million cash from an armored truck at an East Valley casino, but they could also be accused of stealing from some Hollywood scripts. An FBI search warrant affidavit and federal indictment records provide new details of the July 21 attempted robbery of Casino Arizona at Talking Stick that some movie buffs might find familiar.
A manhole cover that wouldn’t budge ended the robbery almost before it began. But Ismar Kabaklic, Adnan Alisic, Bakir Mujkic and Daniel Mujkic had ladders, ropes and an all-terrain vehicle in place for an underground getaway through the sewer, according to court documents.
“The more elaborate the plot, the faster it can unravel,” said Alan Zajic, a Las Vegas-based expert on casino security.
Zajic called the intricate planning of a casino heist “The ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ syndrome,” saying that casinos are some of the riskiest places to rob.
“Ocean’s Eleven” is a 2001 film starring George Clooney — actually a remake of an earlier Frank Sinatra “Rat Pack” epic — in which he plays a compulsive thief who enlists a group of villains to use their special talents and genius to pluck a fortune from the vault of a Las Vegas casino.
Zajic said casinos have hundreds and maybe thousands of surveillance cameras inside and out, many levels of physical security and hundreds of customers and employees who are all potential witnesses.
In “Ocean’s Eleven,” Clooney’s character chooses a casino owned by a rival.
Alisic told the FBI that he and Kabaklic chose Casino Arizona on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community because they had lost a lot of money gambling there and came up with the plan for revenge.
Kabaklic, on probation for assaulting an ex-girlfriend, had asked Judge Warren Granville of Maricopa County Superior Court two days before the robbery if he could leave the country to visit his ailing father in Bosnia.
“Right now, I’m in the process of getting money for plane tickets,” Kabaklic wrote to the judge.
Alisic told the FBI his group planned the heist for two weeks.
The indictment, which charges the men with conspiracy, interference with commerce by threats, violence and robbery and use of a firearm in a crime of violence, outlines each step of the planned caper.
Alisic made fake manhole covers, so they would be lighter and easier to lift, and then switched them with two others the day before the robbery.
The men also placed ladders and ropes in the manholes and parked an ATV in the sewer system so they could race the money from one manhole to the other.
The gear Kabaklic and Alisic assembled beforehand included blue coveralls, gas masks, pepper spray and bear attack deterrent, smoke grenades, cell phones and twoway radios, a 9-millimeter handgun and a plastic pellet gun that resembled a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
They also cut holes in the floorboards of two vans for access to the manhole covers, a trick Steve McQueen pulled in his antihero role of a bank robber in the 1972 film “The Getaway.”
The men rented a room at the Scottsdale Plaza Hotel the day before the attempted robbery to go over their plan, and even conducted a dry run.
Bakir Mujkic and Daniel Mujkic parked a white van across the street from the casino and then got into a Lexus to watch the robbery.
Kabaklic and Alisic rammed their green van into the armored car, jumped out with the pellet gun and sprayed one of the armored car guards with pepper spray.
They grabbed bags of money and fled to the first manhole cover and set off the smoke grenade, but they couldn’t raise the manhole cover, so they fled and abandoned the van at 7555 E. Osborn Road.
Scottsdale police nabbed Kabaklic as he tried to get away with a bag of money. The others were tracked down and arrested later.