A North Carolina man, Christian Lusardi, has been sentenced to five years in prison and to pay $463,540 in restitution for bringing millions in fake poker chips to a tournament held at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey, according to NBC.
The restitution is reported to cover sales the casino lost when it had to close the tournament and over $9,000 in damages to another hotel’s plumbing system after Lusardi flushed the fake chips down a men’s room toilet at Harrah’s, clogging it, which was said to leave water dripping from the ceilings below.
— PocketFives (@pocketfives) October 22, 2015
Lusardi is said to be 43-years-of-age and a resident of Fayetteville, North Carolina. The tournament he intended to take was the 2014 Borgata Winter Poker Open, reports Flush Draw. The charges Lusardi plead guilty to include third-degree criminal mischief as well as second-degree trademark counterfeiting.
In Atlantic County Superior Court, the Judge, Bernard DeLury laid down the sentence.
Lusardi is reported to be currently serving five years on counterfeiting charges, it was not immediately apparent if the new five year sentence would be served concurrently or consecutively, which could significantly increase the time Lusardi could spend in jail.
The poker chip hustler apparently purchased the chips from “an underground Chinese manufacturer.” The fake chips were said to be labelled with “stickers bearing the ‘Borgata’ tourney design.”
At one point, it became apparent to players and officials involved at the Borgata Casino tournament that fake chips were in play, and Christian Lusardi knew the jig was up. He then made his way to Harrah’s Resort, which Google reports is a 16-minute walk, where he proceeded to flush the fake poke chips down a toilet and break it. Water was reported to drip from the ceiling on hotel patrons on the floor below.
Flush Draw opines that Lusardi will never pay and that Harrah’s or Borgata, and the 27 other participants in the poker tournament will be out. The 27 participants are each expected to get $19,323. Lusardi was reported to have won $6,814 in the Winter Poker Open.
The poker publication also notes that only a preliminary portion of the Winter Poker Open was affected, and that it was a three-week tournament.
The 27 players who were exposed to the Christian Lusardi scam, while receiving small portions back, are reported to be losing out on over $900,000 in equity, according to Flush Draw. Apparently, Lusardi’s chips only represented a small portion of those actually in play at the tournament.
A well-known poker scam that involved the use of planted cards, rather than planted chips, was employed by Paul Newman, playing the character Henry Gondorff, in 1973’s The Sting, listed with IMDb. Gondorff and Robert Redford’s character, Johnny Hooker, decided they wanted to take a tycoon of questionable moral fortitude, Doyle Lonnegan, in a series of “cons.” They decide on a horse-betting scam, but first need seed capital in order to be able to properly entice Lonnegan.
Gondorff buys into a poker game held by Lonnegan on the 20th Century Limited, a luxurious train. He also has inside information that tells him that Lonnegan cheats by switching to a deck with ordered cards. Beating him at his own game, Gondorff enters the game holding concealed cards, having carefully studied the types of decks Lonnegan uses before attending. Gondorff waits until Lonnegan thinks he has him beat, waiting for him to lay an entirely different hand. Gondorff then plays a straight flush, one of the strongest hands in poker, and takes Lonnegan for $15,000.
Gondorff and Hooker then bamboozle Lonnegan, setting up a horse betting storefront that is totally phony; complete with actors posing as patrons, and fake results from horse tracks, while real results were being monitored.
Hooker entices Lonnegan to the betting parlour saying that he has a contact that gives him horse racing results before they hit the wire, but that he needs someone to help him bet.
They try out a test bet, where Hooker calls Lonnegan with a fake horse racing tip. Lonnegan goes to the fake betting parlor and makes a bet and, of course, wins. After a few more go-outs, Lonnegan becomes convinced and he bets a large amount, only to have fake police raid the establishment as the horse he bet on loses. Lonnegan is quickly ushered from the establishment, ostensibly, to keep his name from becoming connected with it.
In the film, Lonnegan lost a great amount of money to Hooker and Gondorff and never had any idea what had truly transpired, and always believed the betting parlor to be real.
Christian Lusardi did not appear to think through his fake poker chips scam as thoroughly as Hooker and Gondorff. One can only imagine the time the fictional characters might spend in jail if they were to attempt such plan and get caught today.
[Feature Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]