Peoria men held for robbing student of casino winnings

Peoria men held for robbing student of casino winnings

CHAMPAIGN — Two men from Peoria are in custody on charges they robbed a University of Illinois student of money he won at an East Peoria casino last week.

John Williamson, 24, and Marvino Mister, 23, both of Peoria, are both on parole. They were arrested in Peoria on Wednesday and Thursday on armed robbery warrants issued Wednesday in Champaign County.

The holdup of the 22-year-old Champaign man occurred about 6 a.m. April 12 in the underground parking garage of an apartment building in the 500 block of South Third Street.

Assistant Champaign County State's Attorney Lindsey Clark said the man and two friends had just returned to Champaign from East Peoria, where they had been gambling at the Par-A-Dice Casino the night before.

Clark said the victim won $23,000 at the craps table.

"He cashes out and they announce that over the intercom," she explained. David Strow, a spokesman for the casino, denies that any announcement was made.

A security guard for the casino escorted the trio to their car and they left, stopping briefly at a nearby gas station before heading to Champaign.

Clark said that after parking the car, two of the men got out. The victim, who was driving, reached over to get his cash out of the glove box when he noticed a man coming at him quickly with a gun.

"He throws the money behind his back and sits up against it," said Clark, noting that he had previously put about $2,300 of his winnings in a money clip that was in his pocket.

"The guy points a silver gun in his face and says 'Give me the money.' (The victim) takes out the money clip and hands him the $2,300. The guy says, 'I know you have more,' and threatens to shoot him if he doesn't give him the rest," Clark said.

About that time, a car pulled in the garage and scared off the robber before he could get any more money.

Clark said the victim's friends were already outside the car and were not robbed. However, the gunman told one of them to put his hands above his head, she said.

Champaign police combed the area for the robber but were unable to find anyone. 

After hearing where the men had been, Champaign police investigators, with help from casino security and the Illinois State Police, obtained surveillance video from the casino. Clark said it showed one man "blatantly following the victim while he is at the craps table winning."

From checking the identification that patrons are required to produce when they enter the casino, police learned that man was Williamson. Clark said the detectives further scanned the videotape and found that Williamson met up with Mister, who was also identified from the ID he produced when he came in. 

"The defendants came in the casino separately but were seen briefly meeting and both of them were seen near the craps table," Clark said.

Clark said the videotape also showed that Mister left the casino before the victim, got a car, and parked near the entrance. The victim and his friends then left and right after they left, Williamson left the casino and got into the car with Mister.

Based on the victim's tentative identification of Mister, the state obtained arrest warrants for the pair. Department of Corrections records show both men are on parole from the Jacksonville Correctional Center.

Champaign police detective Robb Morris said he wasn't sure how the men knew each other but knows they spent about four months together last year at a work release center.

Morris said the men's parole agents also helped them in finding Williamson and Mister.

Clark said Williamson has prior convictions from Peoria County for residential burglary and armed robbery and was paroled last July. Mister, she said, was paroled in January for a 2009 residential burglary conviction from St. Clair County. He also had a 2007 controlled substance conviction as an adult from St. Clair County and another for residential burglary as a juvenile.

Because of his prior convictions, Williamson faces an extended term of between six and 60 years if convicted. Mister, the alleged gunman, would face the normal range of penalties of between six and 30 years in prison.

Judge Richard Klaus set bond on the arrest warrants at $500,000 for each of the men. Both were expected to make court appearances in Champaign County this weekend.

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rsp wrote on April 20, 2012 at 8:04 am

Just like with the Lotto, they don't have the winners best interests at heart by announcing big payouts like that. Aside from that, I always divide up the cash I carry, so if something were to happen I can minimize my loss.

ronaldo wrote on April 20, 2012 at 9:04 am

Well, back to the clink.  The Big House.  The slammer.

Any bets on how long it takes someone to blame it on "their environment"?

justmwa wrote on April 20, 2012 at 10:04 am

They must've been too excited over a good night at the casino to "not" notice out of the rearview mirror someone was following them!? Just knowing i won all of that money and it was announced publicly, would've made me more alert the entire way home. That's a long enough drive, with several turns through Champaign, back to campus, to not notice you're being followed. Just saying.

WiltonDiary wrote on April 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Why didn't the winner get a check from the Casino; or some cash and the other in a Check?


Of course hindsight is 20/20 but something to remember in the future.m