A man whose plot to bring millions in counterfeit poker chips to an Atlantic City poker tournament was foiled by a clogged pipe was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison.
Christian Lusardi, 43, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, pleaded guilty in August to second-degree trademark counterfeiting and third-degree criminal mischief, and must repay $463,540 the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa lost on the tournament, and $9,455 for the plumbing damage at Harrah’s Casino Hotel.
The tournament that began Jan. 14, 2014, was supposed to last three weeks, but ended after three days, after the plumbing problem revealed Lusardi’s plan.
Lusardi was staying at Harrah’s and was playing in Borgata’s Winter Poker Open when he flushed the chips down the toilet in his hotel room’s bathroom.
On Jan. 16, 2014, Harrah’s guests reported a leak in the sewer line to two adjoining hotel rooms, leading to the discovery.
A total of 494 gray $5,000 chips and nine mustard $25,000 chips — totaling nearly $2.7 million — were pulled from the pipes. They were marked with stickers that had a counterfeit Borgata trademark.
Play was suspended for an investigation, which found that $800,000 in counterfeit chips had been put into play during the tournament’s first two days.
“While Lusardi’s bungled attempt to dispose of his phony chips was suitable for a Hollywood comedy, the truth is he committed very serious crimes in carrying out his high-stakes counterfeiting scheme,” said acting Attorney General John Hoffman. “In addition to facing a substantial prison sentence, he must pay nearly half a million dollars in restitution for sabotaging a major professional poker tournament.”
The Division of Gaming Enforcement canceled the tournament Jan. 18, 2014.
DGE Director David Rebuck later ordered Borgata to fairly distribute the remaining prize money and refund all entry fees.
State Police quickly identified Lusardi as the man responsible for the counterfeit chips, and arrested him Jan. 24.
The chips were ordered from an online Chinese manufacturer, and then Lusardi put on the fake logos.
“Lusardi was playing with dirty money long before he flushed those chips down the toilet,” said Col. Rick Fuentes, State Police superintendent. “Today’s sentence, which includes substantial restitution, should serve as a warning to anyone considering similar schemes.”