If you hit the jackpot at Atlantic City’s casinos, be very mindful of who’s watching you. That’s the word from police after an elderly man was attacked and robbed of approximately $10,000 in winnings Sunday morning in the parking garage of Trump Taj Mahal.
"We want to get this guy," said Atlantic City Police Detective Thomas Holton during an interview with NBC 10 News Monday.
The suspect had been seen hanging around a blackjack table where Anthony Vastardis, 70, of Bridgeton, N.J., won the money, police said. The culprit then followed the victim onto an elevator after the victim cashed out his winnings -- it was all caught on surveillance video, detectives said.
The attack -- in which the victim took a blow to the head -- took place moments after they got off on the same floor of the parking garage, said police.
“[The suspect] just walked up and clobbered him and as he was assaulting him he said, ‘Let go, let go,’ because the victim was trying to clutch onto the money,” Holton said.
After stealing the cash, the suspect ran from the parking garage and got into a taxi, police said.
The suspect told the cabbie to take him to Baltimore, Md., detectives said.
Along the Atlantic City Expressway, however, the driver got word from another cabbie that New Jersey State Police were looking for his taxi and began guiding authorities to his location.
The suspect got suspicious and ordered the cabbie to let him out at exit 41 of the Expressway in Gloucester Township. He got away before the cops showed up, police said.
The suspect’s right hand may be broken from hitting the victim so hard, investigators said.
“The cab driver that took him indicates that when he was handing him the money for the cab fare, that his hand was very gingerly and he was making motions as if he was in pain,” Holton said.
Vastardis, the victim, suffered a serious hip injury. He was listed in fair condition at an Atlantic City hospital Monday afternoon, said a hospital spokesman.
Although not as violent as this incident, police said in recent months they have seen a spike in the number of robberies and purse snatchings involving gamblers in and around the resort’s casinos.
“With this economy... people have to be a little more aware of their surroundings and take more precautions. Ask for security to escort them to their car if they have a large amount of money,” suggested Holton.
He also said it’s a good idea to have casinos cut a check for big winnings, instead of walking around with a lot of cash.
Anyone who has information on the suspect is asked to call the Atlantic City Police detective bureau at 609-347-5766.