Craps! The great Canadian bank scam
Byline: Brian Molony was a likeable Torontonian who had his first dance with Lady Luck at age 12, betting on horses. How on earth did he orchestrate the largest casino-embezzlement crime in Canadian history?
In this post, we’re going to give you a little lesson on Canadian gambling history. Let’s consider this story an example of what not to do as a responsible gamer.
Instead of scamming the casino itself, notorious and compulsive gambler Brian Patrick Molony scammed his employer, a large Canadian bank.
Brian’s gambling origins
Meet Brian Molony, born in the mid 1960s in Toronto. He got his first taste of beating the odds at age 12, and as soon as he won his first wager on a horse race, his fate was more or less sealed.
Young Molony started stealing money from his parents to spend more on horse races, and he acted as a bookie for school friends who were excited to get in on the action.
When he grew up and graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a journalism degree in the 1980s, he was sharp enough to pass the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) management training program immediately. At first, Brian wanted to become a financial writer, but ended up climbing the ladder at CIBC, getting promoted to the position of loans officer and assistant manager. He eventually had access to an enormous amount of money from one of the largest banks in Canada.
While working as a loan officer at CIBC, Molony would make regular trips to the US.
He admits to visiting all 297 casinos in Las Vegas in operation at the time. His favourite spot, however, was Caesars Boardwalk Regency Hotel-Casino in Atlantic City – he made 37 visits there over 15 months in the 1980s. Brian was known as “Mr. M” in the casino world south of the border, a formidable high-roller.
But in Toronto, he wore cheap dishevelled clothes to work, drove a beat-up car and paid $300 a month for a High Park apartment that he shared with his girlfriend. He was living a secret double life.
As his gambling habits grew increasingly unmanageable, Brian began to “borrow” large sums of money from CIBC, made possible by his high standing at the bank. He always intended to pay back whatever he owed, which is a common justifying thread for compulsive gamblers.
He stole by “lending” money to companies and individuals, using fake and real names, then shifting that money around from one name to another, to make it seem like these ghost-clients were making payments when in reality, the money was being transferred to Molony’s pockets. Well, at least that’s where the money went first.
Once, he attempted to fly to the States with $350,000, in hundred dollar bills stuffed into his pockets. Airport security wasn’t as robust as it is today, and questions weren’t asked.
Eventually Brian made arrangements to transfer money directly to a deposits account that Desert Palace Casino in Las Vegas used to hold customer money, California Clearing Corp. This corporation’s only purpose was to allow gamers to deposit big sums into the casino without detection.
Wherever high-rolling Mr. M went, he was treated like royalty. Casinos offered him private jets, limo service, luxury suites, champagne and prostitutes. He didn’t partake in the latter, claiming he was way too focussed on Lady Luck.
He gradually engineered larger and larger fraudulent bank loans. His last successful embezzlement was to the tune of $1.4 million USD, and he took most of it to the craps table. Spectators lined up “six deep to watch him play,” according to The Star.
In one of the wilder wagers he made, the man with the cheap shoes had $250,000 riding on one single dice throw. By 4 a.m., he was flat broke, having run through over one million dollars during that single trip to the casino. Molony promptly went back to his room and threw up.
After that unlucky trip in the Spring of 1982, a 27-year-old Molony was pulled over in his limo by Metro Toronto police on his way home from the airport. He was arrested, having been monitored for months through wiretaps on a bookmaking ring.
In what stands as a testament to Molony’s craftiness, CIBC knew absolutely nothing about the missing money until authorities informed them that $10.4 million had been stolen and funnelled into Brian’s gambling career. Brian Patrick Molony, the self-admitted gambling addict, had orchestrated “the largest crime of its kind” in the history of Canada, according to The Star.
A year and a half later, Molony pleaded guilty to embezzling the $10.4 million and was sentenced to six years.
Molony eventually got out of prison. Sources vary on whether he served the full sentence – some say he was out having served only two years. He would eventually go on to get married, have children and go into – get this – financial services under his real name.
CIBC filed a federal lawsuit in 1982, accusing Caesars casino personnel of “induc[ing] Molony to gamble,” even though they knew (or should have known) that the money could not possibly belong to Brian. They attempted to recover nearly $5 million lost at Caesars between 1981 and 1982; the terms of the settlement are private.
Brian’s story inspired a book called Stung by Gary Stephen Ross, and a 2003 movie called Owning Mahowny starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver and Maury Chaykin. Film critic Roger Ebert called it one of the ten best films of the year.
And yes, Brian received treatment for his gambling addiction while in custody. He claims to be a transformed man thanks to the program.
Would you trust his financial advice?