There is very little known of Monique Laurent’s life that is confirmed as accurate, other than her taking part in one of the biggest casino scams of the century.
We can confidently say that she was born in Deauville, France, in 1948, and on Valentines Day no less; but other than that most of her early life remains a mystery.
She had at least one brother, and in fact it was the pair of them who got together and came up with what would become known as the ‘French Cigarette Pack Scandal’. Laurent’s husband completed the team, and together they would go on to cheat millions from the Casino Deauville in 1973.
The trio weren’t born cheaters though, their plan was hatched more out of circumstances and opportunity rather than a premeditated decision to go and steal some money.
What’s most impressive about their story is their method, which for the era, was ahead of its’ time.
The French Cigarette Pack Scandal
Monique’s brother got himself a job as a croupier at the Casino Deauville in 1973, and in these early stages it was an honest employment with no hidden agenda.
However, boredom during quiet periods led him to wondering whether the wheel could be spun in such a way that the outcome could be at least partially controlled. He practiced spinning the wheel and releasing the ball in different ways but had no luck.
This turned into something of an obsession, and he began talking to his sister about manipulating the outcome of a spin. The two put their heads together and Monique wondered if technology could help them.
This was the 70’s, so tech was becoming more sophisticated, and they settled on the idea of creating a ball with a tiny receiver inside that could be controlled using a transmitter device. They employed the help of a sculptor friend to create a ball that could house the receiver and also look identical to a regular roulette ball.
Now all they needed was somewhere to hide the radio transmitter.
Decades before any sort of smoking ban was dreamed up, packets of cigarettes were a regular occurrence inside casinos, so a pack could be held in plain sight without suspicion. They chose Marlborough as their brand.
Their devices were ready, their plan was simple, but they would need a little more help.
Enlisting the Husband
After some testing, the siblings found that they could use the transmitter to make the ball land on one of 6 different numbers after each spin with around 90% accuracy.
They would place straight up bets on all six numbers each time, and at odds of 35:1 their losses would be more than covered by their winnings.
But if Monique was going to operate the transmitter and her brother was going to be the croupier, they would need someone else to place the wagers. It would be far to risky for Monique to do both jobs.
This is where Monique’s husband was brought in, but he would not make contact with either of the other two while inside the casino. As far as anyone in the room was concerned, they didn’t know each other.
Once her brother had found the right time to switch the casino’s roulette ball with their own, he would let Monique know with a subtle signal, and she would position herself at a nearby table where she could still see the action on her brother’s table.
Once her husband was settled at her brother’s table and had begun placing his bets, she would press the transmitter hidden in the cigarette pack and the game was on.
It worked brilliantly, and before long the trio were cleaning up 5 million francs a week.
The Perils of Being Beautiful
Although very little is known about Monique’s personal life, she is known to have been very beautiful. A head turner.
Her beauty was to be their downfall.
Although the scam had not gone unnoticed – the casino had watched the brother closely finding no evidence of foul play, and they had even taken the wheel apart to look for any bias and found nothing – management were not happy at their huge losses. They were paying close attention to the man winning all of this money.
Monique had not gone unnoticed either, but not because of her actions. The casino manager had taken a shine to the slight, fashionable, beautiful woman who was frequenting his casino and would often find excuses to talk and flirt with her.
He was obviously unsuccessful in his advances, but he was successful in noticing her behaviour and it brought her to the attention of casino staff. She would come to the casino alone, place very few bets, and constantly hold a packet of cigarettes without smoking them. This was unusual.
Once the casino drafted in a de-bugging team to rule out any sort of radio interference, the team’s fate was sealed.
The casino manager approached Monique as he often had before, except this time he had security with him and asked her for a cigarette. When she could not produce one, the scam was over and the team were arrested.
Life After The Scam
Although neither Monique, her brother or her husband were imprisoned for their actions, they were not allowed to keep their stolen winnings either.
Their story hit the national press and the three cheaters became the talk of the country, with Monique at the centre of the story and receiving top billing. She received the affectionate nickname; ‘La Belle Voleuse’ – The Beautiful Thief.
The French lapped up the story and the general reaction seemed to be one of awe and admiration rather than outcry – perhaps similar to the way many people view The Great Train Robbery in the UK. There was a strange respect for the fact that the team managed to pull it off at all.
After an initial wave of publicity though, things quickly died down and Monique vanished into obscurity again.
Little is known about her life since then, other than the fact that she moved to Las Vegas and worked in retail at a clothing outlet.
Her reasons for choosing Vegas given her past activities leave obvious questions about her intentions, but since she would be in her 70’s by 2018 and there is no further news on her, then she has either been extremely successful at continuing to cheat casinos or she has stuck to the straight and narrow.