Iowa Casino Crime: Prairie Meadows Winner Sees Good Luck Go Bad

Written By Russ Mitchell on July 21, 2022 - Last Updated on December 6, 2022
Prairie Meadows casino

Luck at an Iowa casino turned into terror on the roadway after two drivers forced a jackpot winner to the side of the road and robbed her of her Prairie Meadows casino winnings.

Des Moines Police have one of the drivers in custody. Authorities booked Timothy Jacob Spencer into the Polk County Jail at 2:37 a.m. Thursday, according to a time-stamped online jail log.

Someone will need to post a $60,000 bond to bail out the 30-year-old who is from the unincorporated town of Berwick near Des Moines.

Almost exactly 48 hours earlier — on Tuesday, July 19 — the casino winner left Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Altoona late at night with an astounding $18,000 in her purse.

Prairie Meadows casino cams tell the tale

Authorities used the two days between the crime and the jail booking to review surveillance footage inside Prairie Meadows. Des Moines Police say cameras recorded Spencer in the immediate area of the victim as she won two jackpots.

Spencer seemed to keep an eye on the winner. When she left at about 3 a.m., cameras show him leaving too.

Parking lot cameras then showed Spencer’s white Jeep Grand Cherokee following the winner south on Prairie Meadows Drive. The footage was clear enough to get the Grand Cherokee’s license plate number.

What the Prairie Meadows casino cameras couldn’t record

Des Moines police think Spencer was “accompanied by an associate in a separate vehicle.” They forced the victim to the side of the road on a boulevard southwest of the casino, according to a criminal complaint.

Spencer’s associate pounded on the front passenger window. The victim told police a skinny white male wearing a green or blue shirt approached her on the driver’s side.

That fits the description of Spencer. Police think he struck the victim’s window hard enough to shatter the glass, but it remained intact. He then opened the driver’s door and stole her purse.

Search warrants yield more evidence

The matching Jeep Grand Cherokee and clothing were enough for authorities to execute a search warrant for Spencer’s vehicle during a subsequent visit to Prairie Meadows. Police found:

  • $1,000 in crisp $100 bills and
  • an unmarked prescription bottle containing 15 Oxycontin tablets.

Investigators then searched Spencer’s trailer in Berwick. They found another $2,000 in crisp $100 bills. He had a .38 special revolver in his bedroom.

Spencer denies robbing the Prairie Meadows victim

Spencer told investigators he did not follow the casino customer out of the parking lot and didn’t steal money from her. He has the right to persuade a jury of his innocence. In the criminal complaint, officers note:

  • His route away from the casino placed him within miles of the incident.
  • He admitted purchasing a new phone worth $400.
  • A receipt found at his trailer suggests he used cash to buy several phones for $500.
  • And, he told police the crisp $100 bills came from his own $10,000 jackpot win several weeks earlier.

What does Spencer face in court?

District Associate Judge Becky Goettsch set an Aug. 1 preliminary hearing as the next step in the court process.

Spencer is charged with:

  • first-degree robbery
  • first-degree theft
  • conspiracy to commit a forcible felony
  • going armed with intent
  • possession or use of a false drug tax stamp and
  • first-offense possession of a controlled substance for the Oxycontin.

Spencer told the court he is unemployed in a court filing. He asked the court to appoint an attorney on his behalf.

PlayIA reached out to the Des Moines Police Department’s Public Information Office for an update on the identity or whereabouts of Spencer’s possible co-conspirator. We’ll pass along any new information.

Photo by Shutterstock Image
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Russ Mitchell

Russ Mitchell has been covering news and sports in northwest Iowa since 1997, including 11 years as managing editor for one of the most acclaimed community newspapers in the state. He looks forward to keeping readers up to date on the growing sportsbook industry in Iowa.

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