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Jail for Cannes poker cheats who using infra-red lenses 30/10/2013
Jail for Cannes poker cheat who used infra-red lenses to read the cards and win thousands of dollars - Stefano Ampollini was self-styled 'player and cheat of international renown'

An Italian card sharp who used infra-red contact lenses to count cards marked with invisible ink has been jailed for two years.

The self-styled “player and cheat of international renown” impressed even the presiding judge for his sophisticated use of “old techniques and high-end technology” to win thousands of dollars at a casino in Cannes on the Cote d’Azur. The court in Grasse heard how Stefano Ampollini, 56 – code-named Parmesan – turned up at Les Princes casino in August 2011, wearing a set of infra-red contact lenses bought online from China for euros 2,000 ($2,800).

Opposite him on the stud poker table was a discreet accomplice – another Italian code-named The Israeli – who sniffed or snorted to help Ampollini choose the right cards. Two corrupt casino staff members had already marked the cards with invisible ink. Thanks to his special contact lenses, Ampollini was able to keep track of the game, winning euros 70,000 ($98,000) without being caught.

Ampollini, who told the court that he was a ‘player and cheat of international renown’ (I have never seen him in the GPI), purchased a pair of infra-red contact lenses from an online store in China for €2,000, and then created a small team of men to help him cheat the casinos.

“Casino security found his behaviour rather strange as he won very easily and, above all, because he folded twice when he had an excellent hand, suggesting he knew the croupier’s cards,” said Marc Concas, the lawyer for the Groupe Lucien Barriere, which owns the casino. They called the betting police, who began an investigation.

After tapping telephones, the police worked out that staff members had handed cards to the Italians who had marked them with invisible ink.

They were then placed under cellophane and returned to the casino cupboard, ready for use. When the Italian returned alone two months later, he won euros 21,000 ($30,000), but was arrested as he left the casino.

Ampollini, who confirmed that he had given other pairs of infra-red contact lenses to unnamed “friends”, reportedly smiled as Marc Joando, the presiding judge, marvelled at his exploits. That did no stop the court on Wednesday jailing him and fining him euros 100,000 ($140,000).

Two other Italians were also convicted. Gianfranco Tirrito, 55, described as an elegant “professional cheat” and “probably the mastermind”, was jailed for three years and fined euros 100,000 ($140,000). Rocco Grassanno, 57, who claimed to have come to the Cote d’Azur “for tourism and to meet beautiful women”, was jailed for 30 months and fined euros 50,000 ($70,000).

“This is the first time this sort of technique has been seen in Europe,” Mr Concas said.

The scandal doesn’t end there as Ampollini told the court that he had given other pairs of these infrared contact lenses to some unnamed friends.

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