Louis Colavecchio Biography
Louis Colavecchio, better known as "The Coin," among the gambling community is infamous for counterfeiting thousands of dollars worth of casino coins which he used to swipe millions of dollars from casinos across the United States.
"We have been told this is the largest case of counterfeiting of casino gambling tokens in the United States - ever," said John Enright, member of Providence's office of the Secret Service who was a prime investigator on Colavecchio's case.
Colavecchio was born on January 1st, 1942 in a small town in Rhode Island. Louis Colavecchio's father, Benedict, arrived in Providence in 1903 from Italy and the family has resided there ever since. His father became a very skilled toolmaker and owner of two Providence tool companies, his mother, Dora, stayed home to raise the children. He had two older siblings: Ronald, who became a Jesuit in Brazil and Angela, who became a loving housewife.
Colavecchio, contrary to his sibling, wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and open up his own business. After graduating in 1964 from Providence College, Colavecchio opened up the Trop Jewelry Co. in Providence. The business was doing so well that Colavecchio was able to afford a beautiful condo in North Providence, valued at approximately $130,000.
He was financially stable until 1990, when the Trop Jewelry was caught up in a high stake robbery, where Colavecchio was severely beaten, tied up, and left to die. The following month, Trop Jewelry Co. filed for bankruptcy, as they were unable to recover from the millions of dollars that had been stolen from them. Colavecchio lost his job and had to file for bankruptcy just a few months after.
This was only a temporary setback for Colavecchio, as only a few years later he opened up the store called, "Diamonds in the Sky." This was a high-end jewelry store that had everything one needed from gold chains to precious jewels. However, people in the community were suspicious about the amount of vendors that came in and out of the storefront as opposed to the lack of customers.
A Counterfeit Scandal
In August 1996, Caesars' Casino in Atlantic City took their annual inventory and noticed they had an excess of $10 slot machine tokens circulating in its facility. After a thorough investigation by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, they realized that the casino's inventory of tokens had been flooded with high-quality counterfeit tokens.
The state notified other casinos and they responded by saying they too had found the same high quality fake tokens. State officials studied the tokens and determined they were made with dies that had been created using an electric-discharge machine.
A die is the mold used in combination with a mechanical press to imprint softer metal into a specific desired shape, or in this case a slot machine coin. They could be replicated by using electric-discharge machining to carve specific letters, numbers, and logos into the top soft surface.
Slot machines are extremely sensitive to the writing on a token, so the carved die had to be extremely precise. Casinos have their tokens stamped with their own personal logos, so only those tokens can be used in their slot machines. In order for Colavecchio to be able to use counterfeit coins in multiple casinos, he had to create them using different dies each time and that's exactly what he did.
Casinos were routinely monitoring with surveillance cameras in search for a culprit. Colavecchio and his girlfriend, Donna Ulrich looked particular suspicious to Caesars' Palace Security as they watched them play $10 slot machines for several hours. After they left, officials searched the machines they were playing on and their suspicions were confirmed when they found hundreds of counterfeit coins inside.
The pair was arrested immediately and they confiscated an unfathomable amount of coins and records of counterfeit tokens cashed in at other casinos. State police estimated there were 750 pounds of coins in total, so many that when the police transferred them over to an officer's car, the rear bumper nearly scraped the ground.
The Effects His Scandal Had
People in Providence and the surrounding areas were very surprised when law enforcement released the news about Colavecchio. "We used to hear a banging noise and wondered what it was," said an employee at a nearby boutique, "We just thought it was them making jewelry." Colavecchio had managed to tarnish the name that his father spent years protecting.
Colavecchio's crime had gone on for nearly a year unnoticed, which caused great concern for the casino and gambling industry. Casinos have slowly but surely moved away from using coins and have started using paper vouchers instead. Slot machines will dispense a paper voucher which can be redeemed for cash at kiosks located next to the cashier, to further avoid any other malpractices from occurring.
Author: Nicole Miller
Updated: December 2016
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