The Unlikely Duo
In the spring of 2009, two men, John Kane, 52, from Las Vegas, and Andre Nestor, 39, from western Pennsylvania, were accused of exploiting a bug in a line of video-poker machines. Over six weeks, they allegedly won hundreds of thousands of dollars in unearned jackpots. Kane, who first discovered the exploit, invited Nestor to Las Vegas to capitalize on this newfound knowledge.
The duo would place small bets repeatedly until they won a hand. They then used a special button sequence to change the credits to a higher denomination and access the previous winning hand of cards, triggering a jackpot. This exploit required the activation of the “Double Up” option on the machines, which often involved persuading casino staff to open up the machines.
The Charges and Arrest
Federal prosecutors charged Kane and Nestor with conspiracy to commit computer fraud. Nestor faced additional charges in a separate state case for allegedly using the same hack at the Meadows Racetrack and Casino near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he reportedly won more than $400,000. However, before the trial could begin, the FBI intervened, arresting him for the federal case in Las Vegas.
Nestor argued that what he did was akin to counting cards in blackjack. He claimed to have found a way to gain an edge over the house and exploited it. “I’m being arrested federally for winning on a slot machine,” he said, in apparent amazement. “It’s just like if someone taught you how to count cards, which we all know is not illegal. You know. Someone told me that there are machines that had programming that gave a player an advantage over the house. And that’s all there is to it.… Who would not win as much money as they could on a machine that says, ‘Jackpot’? That’s the whole idea!”
Despite the initial charges, the case took an unexpected turn. The federal charges against the two men were eventually dropped. This case serves as a reminder of the fine line between exploiting a system and outright fraud, and the potential legal consequences that can arise from such actions.
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