A North Carolina man who attempted to foil authorities by flushing counterfeit poker chips down a toilet designed the fake disks with spray paint before mailing them to Atlantic City in a package he sent to himself at Harrah’s Resort.
The new details in the case of Christian Lusardi, who was charged last month in the rigging of Event 1 in the Borgata Winter Poker Open, emerged as the man was caught in another scheme, according to documents filed in federal court last week.
Those documents tell the story of a man whom the Department of Homeland Security has been investigating for a year and a half in a separate scheme, allegedly selling bootleg DVDs that yielded him close to $1 million. The 42-year-old also is being charged with copyright infringement after more than 37,500 illegal DVDs were found at his Fayetteville, N.C. home.
An affidavit by Bryan Moultis, a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security, shows law enforcement officials continuously tracked shipments of DVDs that Lusardi had sent from China to various postage drops and residential addresses in North Carolina.
But the document, used to obtain a warrant for Lusardi’s arrest, also included details about a plot that included introducing $800,000 in forged chips into play during the January poker tournament at Borgata.
According to the documents, authorities contacted Lusardi by phone after suspicions were raised about counterfeit chips. Lusardi told them he had hidden the chips he introduced into play in bathrooms located in the Borgata. Those fake chips were manufactured by hand as Lusardi spray-painted the designs.
An ex-wife, who is not named, also reported to authorities that Lusardi enlisted the help of his daughter to construct the chips in the weeks before the tournament. Court documents state that Lusardi received packages from Hong Kong, China described as “plastic chips.”
Lusardi’s girlfriend, Tiffany Decarlo, also of Fayetteville, N.C., told authorities that two weeks before the Borgata tournament that began Jan. 14, Lusardi received a package from China. He later mailed a package to Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, where he stayed.
Lusardi told authorities that when he believed the fake chips had been discovered in play, he panicked. He returned to his room at Harrah’s and flushed the remaining chips down a toilet. New Jersey State Police have said the fake chips he flushed would have totaled $2.7 million.
Flushing the chips only complicated the issue, as hotel guests then complained of leaks in their rooms, prompting casino maintenance workers to investigate. The casino workers then discovered the fake chips. Lusardi, who was an early standout in tournament play, was arrested Jan. 24 at the Super 8 Motel on Tennessee Avenue in Atlantic City and charged with rigging a publicly exhibited contest. He was taken to the Atlantic County Justice Facility, with bail set at $300,000. He was still being held there Tuesday.
Officials said the investigation continues.
New Jersey State Police Trooper Jeff Flynn said no other information could be released in the case.
Lisa Spengler, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, confirmed that the investigation continues. The division’s order suspending play remains in place, she said.
It remains unclear what will become of the buy-in money players’ paid, as well as the prize pool. The tournament began Jan. 14 with a $560 buy-in for $20,000 chips. At the time play was halted, 27 people remained.
According to court documents, Lusardi came up with the idea of entering fake chips into the tournament at least six months before it took place. Investigators interviewed Shaheim Sheridan, of Fayetteville, N.C., in the course of the investigation.
He told authorities that Lusardi approached him with the idea of introducing counterfeit chips into a poker tournament in July, but he declined to participate in the scheme.
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