Crime - Sacto 911

Illegal slots, cocaine and fast cars. Now it’s payback time for ‘Dino the Casino’

Prosecutors say this Florin-area cigarette store was one of many from Sacramento to Bakersfield where Nive Hagay, known as “Dino the Casino,” operated illegal video slot machines.
Prosecutors say this Florin-area cigarette store was one of many from Sacramento to Bakersfield where Nive Hagay, known as “Dino the Casino,” operated illegal video slot machines. The Sacramento Bee

They called him “Dino the Casino,” and he had a thing for slot machines and exotic sports cars.

At one point last fall, “Dino” – whose real name is Nive Hagay – was the registered owner of three Ducati motorcycles, a Mercedes-Benz and an Aston Martin sports car.

Hagay, an Israeli citizen who turns 32 on Sunday, came to own these vehicles and other assets without reporting any earned income between 2013 and October 2016, according to court records.

Instead, federal prosecutors say, Hagay’s luxurious lifestyle stemmed from installing 70 to 100 illegal video gambling machines in smoke shops, pizza parlors and mini marts stretching from Bakersfield to Sacramento. In one six-month stretch, he pulled in $500,000 in profits, they said.

That all ended with his arrest last November. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. sentenced Hagay in federal court in Sacramento to serve two years years in prison and forfeit about $320,000 in cash, vehicles and other assets.

In a plea agreement reached last May, Hagay pleaded guilty to conducting an illegal gambling business and distributing cocaine, a charge that stemmed from him selling an $800 bag of the drug to a government informant at a Sacramento smoke shop last October, court records say.

Hagay did not address the judge during sentencing, but his attorneys noted in court papers that the drug deal “was an isolated sale” to an FBI informant he had befriended, and that he had no history of drug sales.

The probe of Hagay began in February 2015, when a longtime FBI informant tipped authorities that he was placing slot machines in small businesses throughout the Central Valley and splitting the proceeds of the devices with the business owners.

Federal agents then began tracing Hagay’s movements, once placing a GPS tracking device on a car he was using. When Hagay switched vehicles less than two weeks later, agents followed Hagay from Sacramento to Modesto trying to sneak another tracking device onto his car as he made his rounds visiting stores where the slots were located.

As Hagay was inside a Mountain Mike’s pizza parlor in Modesto, an FBI agent tried to place a GPS tracker onto Hagay’s new vehicle, but Hagay unexpectedly emerged from the restaurant and “approached the driver side window cursing at him and asking what he was doing to his jeep,” according to an FBI affidavit filed in court.

The agent drove off as Hagay angrily retrieved the tracker and threw it across the parking lot before driving away, the affidavit says, adding that the agent later returned and recovered the device.

The FBI probe included a video recording of Hagay selling the cocaine to the informant while apologizing for its poor quality and offering to procure a better product later, the affidavit states.

The investigation also scrutinized Hagay’s bank accounts and spending patterns, determining that he often deposited cash into his accounts. Other times, court records say, Hagay passed cash proceeds of his operation through clothing companies in the Los Angeles garment district in exchange for checks that he would deposit.

“Hagay also confirmed that he never did legitimate work for these clothing companies for the large checks he received from them,” court documents say.

Hagay apparently loved high-end sports cars.

He once purchased an Audi R8 luxury sports car from a Beverly Hills dealer for $202,000 in cash and a $2,520 charge on his Visa card, court records say.

He also was on searchable probation for an arrest in Los Angeles for a road rage incident in which he punched and kicked another driver’s car door while he was driving a white Lamborghini, court records say.

When FBI agents raided his Los Angeles home they found $50,000 in cash, and seized another $2,921.17 in coins found in a Dodge Caravan he had been driving.

All told, Hagay has agreed to forfeit to the government more than $319,250 in cash and bank account balances, as well as the Aston Martin, the Mercedes and the three Ducati motorcycles.

Hagay could have faced up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine for the cocaine distribution charge, but both prosecutors and his defense attorneys argued that a two-year sentence was appropriate.

His family and friends sent letters of support to the judge, urging leniency. One letter from his wife, Amanda Olson, noted that Hagay “is one of the smartest, funniest, most driven men I have ever met in my life.”

Hagay adopted four rescue dogs, she wrote, and loved gardening. She conceded that they “lived a slightly fast life from time to time,” but added that Hagay is not a bad person.

“I hope to start a family when this is all over, as we were planning before his arrest,” Olson wrote. “I do not know whether the immigration court will allow him to remain in the U.S. or not.

“Either way, I will welcome my husband home or pack up our belongings and move to Israel with our dogs.”

Sam Stanton: 916-321-1091, @StantonSam