Authorities Hunt Armed Robber of Bellagio Poker Room

Las Vegas Police Identify Bellagio Poker-Cage Robber

The Las Vegas Metro Police Department has released the identity of the man who robbed the cashier’s cage in the poker room at the Bellagio on Friday night. Michael Charles Cohen, 49, of Las Vegas, died Saturday morning at a Las Vegas hospital after being critically wounded in a brief shootout with LVMPD officers in the Bellagio’s north valet parking area.

In a press statement, the LVMPD also confirmed that Cohen was “relatively certain[ly]” the armed robber who held up the same poker-room cashier’s cage in November of 2017. Police noted that the man whose image was captured in video surveillance of both the 2017 and 2019 robberies wore the “same hoodie, glasses and black beanie” in both robberies, and even attempted to disguise his identity further during both robberies by wearing a bandage to obscure part of his face.

Authorities Hunt Armed Robber of Bellagio Poker Room

Michael Charles Cohen as he appeared on security footage of the November 2017 armed robbery at the Bellagio

Cohen (pictured at right in the 2017 robbery), it turned out, had a long and violent criminal record, having been found guilty of armed bank robberies in 1999 and 2008. Cohen also had a string of other arrests, being charged over the years with kidnapping, carjacking, possession of narcotics paraphernalia, possession of stolen property, and a handful of misdemeanors and traffic charges.

According to Assistant Clark County Sheriff Charles Hank, Cohen would have faced numerous additional charges had he survived the gunfire exchange with the officers. Those charges likely would have included attempted murder on a protected person, two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon (also including the November 2017 Bellagio robbery), illegal possession of a firearm, burglary with a firearm, attempted grand larceny of an auto with a firearm, and carrying a concealed weapon.

Video of the shootout, now widely available, shows Cohen exiting the casino and hopping into the closest vehicle, a white Mercedes with an open door. Cohen climbed back out off the Mercedes after failing to locate any keys. He then moved to the next vehicle, a black sedan reported with the windows rolled up; this is the vehicle reported driven by a female Bellagio patron that Cohen tried to carjack. Instead of opening her door, she rolled the car forward a few feet as the situation escalated around her.

Meanwhile, the three LVMPD bicycle officers who were in the Bellagio’s north valet area investigating the report of a disappearance of a 12-year-old girl are shown responding to a radio notification of the robbery, then recognizing that the likely robbery was only yards in front of them. They moved forward to confront Cohen, and instead of surrendering, Cohen opened fire with his handgun, striking one of the officers twice in the chest (the officer was wearing a bulletproof vest and was not seriously injured). A second officer, later identified as 29-year-old Joaquin Escobar, returned fire, striking Cohen in the head.

As for the officer who was hit by Cohen’s shots, Assistant Clark County Sheriff Hank said, ““We’re fortunate that our officer’s vest stopped that round. This could have been very tragic for both our officers, as well as citizens or even that lady that was in her car. I’m just very grateful that our officers were present and took the action that they did, and that they’re OK and that the community members and visitors of the community were OK.”

Truth be told, it’s unlikely anyone outside Cohen’s immediate family will shed tears for the career criminal, and the incident my well provide a reminder to would-be robbers and thieves that casinos aren’t the soft targets they appear. In both of Cohen’s robberies, Bellagio staff were properly trained not to confront the armed robber and risk injury or death to themselves, other workers, or the casino’s plentiful customers.

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