Casino heist may have paid way to poker tourney

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SPOKANE — A professional card player may have bought his seat at a World Series of Poker tournament with proceeds from a casino heist in Clarkston.

The potential connection has emerged in court documents surrounding the recent arrest of Troy Wilcoxon, 27, who placed 11th out of 898 players in the latest World Series of Poker tournament in Las Vegas. Wilcoxon worked at Lancer Lanes Casino in Clarkston, where more than $25,000 was stolen in May.

Wilcoxon and a friend, James Nollette, are facing burglary, theft and money laundering charges in Asotin County Superior Court in connection with the heist. The investigation is being conducted by the Clarkston Police Department and the Spokane office of the state Gambling Commission.

“There’s a good chance, but we don’t know” for certain whether proceeds of the casino heist covered Wilcoxon’s tournament fee and eight-day stay at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, said Clarkston police Detective Richard Muszynski.

The casino was hit in the early morning hours of May 23. There was no forced entry, Muszynski said, and the crime appeared to be committed by “someone that was somewhat familiar with the business.”

Wilcoxon reportedly owed debts totaling about $15,000, investigators said.

A few days after the heist, Nollette and Wilcoxon rented a car and drove 15 hours to Las Vegas, according to interviews with investigators. While there, Wilcoxon played in a $500 buy-in tournament for casino employees, the first competition in the nearly seven-week event that annually attracts the world’s top poker players.

According to tournament records, Wilcoxon placed 11th in the tournament, winning $5,010.

Muszynski said police are investigating where the money from the burglary ended up. Only a bundle of $5 bills totaling $100 found near the Clarkston casino has been recovered from the theft. The two spent a total of eight days in Las Vegas. When they came back, police were waiting to interview Wilcoxon. Wilcoxon reportedly bragged to officers about his winnings from the Las Vegas trip and denied having anything to do with the burglary, instead implicating a former Lancer Lanes employee. Wilcoxon and Nollette were later arrested on burglary and stolen property charges.

Nollette and Wilcoxon have both bonded out of Asotin County Jail and are next expected in court on Monday.