Perhaps one day, Christian Lusardi’s exploits at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City will be made into a Hollywood comedy. The script practically writes itself — a high-stakes poker tournament, $3.6 million in fake chips, and a clogged toilet.
Funny as it sounds, the New Jersey Acting Attorney General John Hoffman has called Lusgardi’s bungled “high-stakes counter-fitting scheme” a “very serious” crime, the Press of Atlantic City reported.
Now, the mastermind will spend five years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree trademark counterfeiting and third-degree criminal mischief. He must also repay the Atlantic City casino $463,540 in restitution, and another $9,455 for damaging the plumbing at Harrah’s Casino Hotel.
According to local radio station WFAE in Christian’s native North Carolina, he has had a prolific criminal career. Late last year, his PayPal account was reportedly plump with $1 million dollars, but his house was full of counterfeit DVDs — 35,000 of them, in fact. The feds raided his house and he was ordered to pay a fine.
Then, he set his sights on an even greater scheme: fake poker chips. His target? Atlantic City. The tournament was the Borgata Winter Open Big Stack, No Limit Hold ‘Em, which began on Jan. 14, 2014.
According to law enforcement, Lusardi bought the chips online from a Chinese manufacturer, then affixed the fake Borgata logos onto each one.
He then made his way to Atlantic City, hundreds of fake chips in hand, and entered the Winter Open Big Stack himself, ultimately winning $6,814, CBS News reported.
The poker tournament was supposed to go on for three weeks. In the first two days, investigators said $800,000 in fake chips were put into play at the Atlantic City poker show-down. A day later, Christian’s scheme was uncovered.
For some reason, he thought his fake chips had been discovered and the jig was up, so he resorted to drastic measures to cover up his tracks.
During his time in Atlantic City, he was staying at Harrah’s, and upon returning to his room, flushed the remaining booty down the john in the room’s bathroom.
Of course, that volume of fake chips was far too much for the hotel’s plumbing to handle, and on Jan. 16, guests staying on the floor below his room complained about dripping water.
Maintenance was called in and then the jig really was up. While investigating an apparent clog, workers found the fake chips, three days into the poker competition.
When all was said and done, 500 fake chips were pulled from the plumbing of the fancy Atlantic City hotel, with a face value of $2.7 million. An additional 22 fake chips, worth about $5,000, were removed from a plugged potty in the men’s room at the Borgata, NJ.com reported.
“Lusardi was playing with dirty money long before he flushed those chips down the toilet,” said State Police superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes.
The total value: $3.6 million; although, since they were counterfeit, they didn’t really have any value at all. The tournament was suspended so authorities could audit the play, and they discovered just how many of Christian’s counterfeit chips made it into the game.
By the time the plan was foiled, 27 players were still going strong, but the tournament had to be suspended long before it was scheduled to end. About $1.5 million in prize money was left by that time and put on hold, then the state Division of Gaming Enforcement ordered that it be split up among the remaining players and entry fees refunded.
The $463,540 Lusgardi must pay in restitution reflects the amount the Atlantic City lost in the Borgata Winter Open Big Stack, No Limit Hold ‘Em because of him. Understandably, the casino is now taking measures to keep this from happening again. Their chips will now be harder to replicate, with more colors and a marker that can only be seen under ultraviolet light.
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