So how does a long-haul trucker from tiny Parsons, Tenn. (population 2,452), end up with a federal conviction for attempting to extort two of the largest gaming companies on the Vegas strip?
As Jeff Greer, 49, awaits his Jan. 30 sentencing in a hamlet along the Tennessee River, looking down the barrel of up to five years in prison, he's probably wondering the same thing.
This trail to the federal pen wasn't forged along the information superhighway, or even by colluding with casino employees. It was never quite that sexy.
The trucker's road to riches was paved in paper, and it traces an almost 2,000-mile burn from Vegas to Jackson, Ala. A Vegas recycling plant hired French Trucking out of Lexington to haul paper for processing at an Alabama plant. But this wasn't just any load of paper. The trailer contained reams of documents rife with credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and marker debts for some of MGM/Mirage's and Harrah's highest rollers. It should all have been shredded before it left Las Vegas. But that never happened.
So in March 2007, when Greer unloaded in Jackson and took a closer look at the loose papers, he saw opportunity. Though he would later claim his motives were at least halfway altruistic—he thought he would be providing a service even if he expected to be paid for it—on the books, it was called extortion.
Greer kept a few loose leftovers. Before ferreting them away, he asked his boss of 15 years at French a hypothetical: "If I hauled grass seed, could I take that home and put it on my yard?" he asked. Vickie French said he could. For Greer, the logic was a legal pass, if not a mandate. Cargo is cargo, right?
A month later, he placed calls to security officials for Harrah's and MGM using calling cards and prepaid cell phones. He identified himself only as Jeff and told them that the casinos' security had been breached and that he had access to sensitive customer information. MGM told Greer what he was doing was illegal.
"How would customers like it if they knew their information was available?" Greer threatened. "They would go elsewhere." He indignantly hung up.
A few days later, however, he was back. He'd spoken with an attorney who apparently told him he was a fool and that he should destroy the documents immediately. Undeterred, he called MGM and demanded a short-term consulting contract.
He had worked all his life, Greer said. And he wasn't feeling like a Good Samaritan today. It was time to get paid.
Greer called again on May 3, 2007, and again on May 7. This time he was impatient with casino bureaucracy. He told the security official's assistant to take a look at eBay under the listing, "A Large Gaming Company's Family Jewels."
"Ever wish you could have a big corporation by the balls? NOW YOU CAN!" the ad said. "IDENTITY THIEVES NEED NOT APPLY."
Greer went on to describe the sensitive information he held, writing that he "committed no criminal act in acquiring this information and [has] no intention of committing any connected with its sale, so don't ask."
Bidding would start at $100,000. The ad ended with a tightly cropped photo of a pair of steer testicles.
The same day, Greer spoke to the vice president of security at MGM. He demanded $250,000 in exchange for releasing the information and explaining how to stopper the leak.
What if MGM and Harrah's couldn't come to an agreement? the official asked.
"I will spend 12 hours running around the Internet, bringing peoples' attention to it," Greer countered in a taped call. "I figure I could get 50,000 eyeballs on it over the next seven days."
Then he tried to play MGM against Harrah's.
"You have the option to bid on it just like your competitors would, and the National Enquirer and Star and everybody... I'd rather have your 250 and let you fix your problem quietly than a half a million from Harrah's, and they're going to leak it gradually all over the entire world that y'all can't be trusted with peoples' information. And you're going to lose some of your high-rollers going over to them, and they're going to make a huge profit if they got it for $500,000."
Greer then called Harrah's security and said he wanted the money sent to him through Lone Elm Research, an unregistered company run out of his own home. He wanted a clear conscience, he said, but he wasn't going to clear it without remuneration.
Harrah's offered $5,000. Greer balked. Harrah's said that for $250,000, it would need a name to prove Greer had current information.
Greer backpedaled. The information he had was outdated garbage, but sensitive nonetheless.
Still, Harrah's agreed to his demands with the understanding that Greer would hand over everything he had, explain the leak, and agree to not come back for more.
But Greer apparently couldn't help himself. Later that day, he indeed came back for more, asking for an additional $100,000 to gamble with for the World Series of Poker. Greer explained that the casino wouldn't lose much. He was admittedly a sorry poker player.
A deal was struck, and they arranged to meet at Harrah's corporate offices in Cordova, Tenn., two days later.
Greer evidently felt gregarious. The burden of being the smartest guy in the room seemed too much to bear, so he unburdened himself. After swearing one security official to secrecy, Greer told him he was a trucker who hauled their waste paper. He didn't hack their system or infiltrate their offices. He was just a driver who noticed the chaff from a load was worth something. It was as if Greer expected them to guffaw at the pure simplicity of his whole scheme.
Later that day, Greer arrived in Cordova in a Dodge Intrepid he borrowed from a friend. He was escorted into a conference room by an FBI agent posing as a Harrah's employee, then introduced to another undercover agent and the two Harrah's officials he'd been haggling with all along. They gave Greer a corporate check for $250,000 and a service contract for pointing out the leak. The trucker handed over a stack of internal documents with a signed statement indicating where he'd gotten them. As he stepped out of the conference room and into what he thought would be a heap of money, FBI agents arrested him.
Months later, the government footed the bill for Greer's trial in Las Vegas. The man who momentarily held a fortune could afford neither a plane ticket nor a lawyer. Unfortunately, he had neglected to honor the prevailing law of Vegas: You might be up for a few hands, but the house always wins.
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