Christian Lusardi is finally facing charges for using counterfeit chips in the 2014 Borgata Winter Poker Open, as an Atlantic County grand jury has indicted him on charges of theft, trademark counterfeiting and criminal mischief.
Lusardi was in possession of millions in counterfeit tournament chips, some of which were used in the first event of the poker festival, a $2 million guarantee event that was suspended and then stopped entirely after the fake chips were discovered.
Lusardi was caught after the tournament had been suspended when guests in two rooms near his reported leaks in the sewer line.
Hotel staff investigated, and found that the problem had been caused by about 2.7 million in tournament chips having been flushed down a toilet.
More than 500 chips were eventually recovered from the building’s plumbing, all of which were fake.
Another 11 were found in a clogged toilet, and it eventually came to light that about 160 counterfeit chips, all of the 5,000 chip denomination, had been allegedly used by Lusardi during the first two days of the tournament.
Given the particulars of how Lusardi was caught, officials couldn’t help but make some easy puns at his expense.
“When you gamble on a flush in high-stakes poker, you either win big or lose big,” said New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes. “Lusardi lost big when his alleged scheme was foiled by a leaking sewer pipe.”
Authorities allege that Lusardi ordered the counterfeit chips from China, and then affixed fake stickers to them in order to match the chips being used in the Borgata tournaments.
His alleged attempt to flush his chips caused close to $10,000 in damage to the Borgata’s plumbing system, which led to the charge of criminal mischief.
When the tournament was cancelled, 27 players remained in the event, which meant that there were still played with the opportunity to win major prizes who never got that opportunity.
For months, these players and others waited to hear what the resolution to the situation would be.
Three months later, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) came to a solution, though it wasn’t one that made everyone happy.
The resolution attempted to compensate everyone who might have been impacted by Lusardi’s fraud.
First, all players who didn’t make the money but could have potentially come into contact with Lusardi or his counterfeit chips received $560 in compensation.
Players who were eliminated in the money received their scheduled payouts (including some players who were eliminated but hadn’t been paid when the tournament was suspended).
That left only the final 27 players to be compensated, and the DGE decided to give each of the remaining players $19,323.
Essentially, the players chopped the money remaining after compensation was given to those who might have been impacted by Lusardi: still a nice score from a $560 buy-in, but not nearly equal to what they would have received had the tournament played out, which didn’t sit well with many of those players.
Lusardi is no stranger to counterfeiting charges.
Earlier this year, he was sentenced to five years in prison after reaching a plea agreement over charges that he trafficked in counterfeit DVDs that were mailed from China.