Home-Invasion Robbery

Philadelphia Man Arrested After Home-Invasion Robbery Attempt

A 24-year-old North Philadelphia, PA man has been arrested after attempting a home-invasion-style armed robbery on Thursday, March 21, of prominent pro player Darren Elias’s suburban Philly home. Shannon Soroka was arrested and charged on Friday with multiple violent offenses, including robbery, aggravated assault, making terroristic threats, unlawful possession of a weapon, and criminal mischief.

According to multiple Philadelphia news outlets, Soroka forced his way into Elias’s Medford Township home, only to discover that Elias and his wife weren’t there, and that a 19-year-old babysitter was there caring for the Eliases’ two-year-old son. Soroka then held a gun to the babysitter’s back while forcing her throughout the house and demanding where the absent Elias kept the money, an assumption that the successful Elias must keep a large cash bankroll on hand.

Eventually, Soroka locked the unidentified babysitter in a bathroom and presumably kept rummaging for cash and valuables. The 19-year-old sitter soon escaped through a bathroom and fled to a neighbor’s home to call police. Soroka fled the scene before police arrived, but they were able to secure surveillance footage of him getting into his car and driving off. Police then received an anonymous tip as to Soroka’s identity and arrested him on Friday.

Neither the unidentified babysitter nor the Eliases’ young child was harmed in the attempted robbery. Later, after learning of the incident, Elias told a Philadelphia NBC outlet, “It’s incredibly scary for me and my family. It was an awful feeling. I would say he was familiar with what I do for a living and thought that I might have things of value in the house.”

Elias also told officers and media that his house had also been targeted in another robbery attempt a week earlier, though it’s not clear whether anything was stolen in that earlier attempt. Since Elias was specifically targeted in this incident, it appears likely that Soroka was the earlier attempted robber as well.

It turns out that Soroka (pictured) has a long list of cashes in small poker tournaments in and around Philadelphia (most frequently at Parx Casino) and not-far-off Atlantic City, New Jersey. There’s little doubt that Soroka, as a regular tourney grinder in the greater Philadelphia area, would have been well aware of the poker exploits of Elias, one of the region’s most famous and successful players. Earlier this month, for example, Elias logged a $473,280 score for finishing third in the $10,000 WPT Main Event that’s a major component of the LA Poker Classic.

The incident also adds to a regrettably long list of poker pros who have been the targets of violent home invasions or in-public robberies. A short list of such high-profile stories in recent years includes the 2011 home-robbery of 2010 WSOP Main Event winner Jonathan Duhamel. Duhamel lost cash and valuables (including his champion’s bracelet, later re-awarded by the WSOP), in a group robbery orchestrated by his then-girlfriend, Bianca Rojas-Latraverse.

A similar girlfriend-orchestrated robbery resulted in the violent beating and death of London (UK) high-stakes cash-game player Mehmet Hassan in 2015. Numerous other pros have been the victims or targets of similar attacks, such as American player Jason Potter, who was held up outside Melbourne’s Crown Casino after a big score in the Aussie Millions in 2008, or another WSOP Main Event champ, 2004’s Greg Raymer, who famously fought off two armed robberies in a Bellagio hotel hallway later that same year.

Nor is it unheard of for a wannabe poker pro to resort to robberies as a way of padding his own bankroll. Besides Soroka, another recent example was that of California’s Dominic Roberson, who is currently serving an eight-year prison term after being convicted of a series of “follow-home” robberies targeting successful casino patrons who logged big paydays. And nothing is worse in this category than the tale of Ernie Scherer, a would-be poker pro who murdered his parents last decade in an attempt to get money and cash in on a future inheritance.

Coincidentally, this writer had a chance to speak briefly today with Raymer, who was aware in general terms of the incident involving Elias, though not any of the specifics. While there’s been no shortage of attacks targeting poker players presumed to have large amounts of cash on hand, and that Soroka’s robbery attempt was very much a “poker world” thing, Raymer stressed that in most cases, it’s a matter of larger circumstance, with the would-be robbery simply going after what he believes is an easy target.

Raymer offered some sage advice, including some basics of self-defense and awareness that if minded, can reduce the risk for almost anyone, except perhaps the specific of a targeted home invasion such as Elias. “If you’re walking to the parking lot to get into your car,” Raymer offered as an example, “you’ve got to pay attention. You shouldn’t be locked into your phone. You shouldn’t be drunk.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re well known. If they see you leave the casino with a lot of money, a lot of cash, you don’t want to be stumbling drunk to your car in the parking garage, because that’s who the bad guys are looking for. All that’s common sense, of course; it’s not specific to poker.”

And specific or not, it’s still good advice. Poker players who carry significant cash especially need to be aware of their surroundings at all times. Risk can never be totally avoided, but it can be managed and reduced.

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