Cheaters and Thieves Week: The Other Christian Lusardi Disposal Tale

Welcome back to the long-running saga of Christian Lusardi’s insertion of a goodly number of counterfeit chips into a major preliminary event of the 2014 Borgata Winter Poker Open.  As our readers surely know, Lusardi’s caper ultimately caused the cancellation of that event, creating havoc and damages that extended into the millions.  Lusardi, for his part, currently resides in a federal prison in South Carolina for that and other crimes.  Here, we’ll publish a second “disposal” aspect of the story never before offered.

Christian Lusardi was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for inserting counterfeit chips into a 2014 Borgata poker tournament.

Lusardi’s scheme began to unravel after he flushed hundreds more of the counterfeit chips down his hotel-room toilet at the nearby Harrah’s Atlantic City.  The story would be high comedy if not for the hefty damages caused.  The massive number of chips flushed down the toilet clogged the pipes, causing a leak, and after discovering what caused the leak, Harrah’s officials in turn contacted the Borgata, via New Jersey’s State Police.

An excerpt from an appellate ruling in a class-action suit later brought by other affected players offers the most detailed timeline for what occurred:

In the afternoon on the second day of play on January 16, 2014, State Police contacted the tournament director to advise that Harrah’s had discovered 500–1000 Borgata chips in a clogged sewer line. Borgata security personnel took possession of what appeared to be Borgata tournament chips and, within a few hours, confirmed their initial suspicions that the chips were counterfeits. In an effort to determine whether any counterfeit chips had made their way into the tournament, Borgata personnel began looking at the chips on the tournament tables where play in segment 2 was taking place. At 2:30 a.m. on January 17, when play in segment 2 ended, casino staff gathered all the chips in play, comparing them with authentic chips to determine if any counterfeits had made their way into the tournament.

Note that Lusardi himself busted from the tournament late on January 16th, just before the final three tables (27 players) bagged and tagged their chips.  The story continues:

By 8:45 a.m. the following morning, the tournament director had provided Borgata security officials with four tournament chips he believed to be counterfeits, and Borgata had advised the Division of Gaming Enforcement of the problem. At a 10:00 a.m. meeting attended by Borgata’s president, vice president and general counsel, vice president of finance, the casino controller, senior security staff and the tournament director, a decision was made to suspend play for the remaining twenty-seven players still in the tournament and conduct an internal chip audit used in the tournament.

Detectives quickly established the connection between the fake chips and Lusardi, via the Harrah’s hotel-registration records.  But it turned out, as we’ve once reported, that Lusardi had been on Borgata’s watch list for some four years already, due to then having received an anonymous tip that we a cheater at some of the casino’s three-card table games — possibly stuff such as Let It Ride and the like.

The Borg thus was on record as having tracked Lusardi for some time before the fouled 2014 BWPO event.  They never had convincing evidence of him cheating, so they never 86’d him.  But those surveillance records contained a far more bizarre observation as well.

Let’s just toss in another ruling excerpt, this one something of a mind-bender:

Borgata officials “tagged” Lusardi in 2010 for monitoring after receiving an anonymous letter mentioning his name in connection with possible cheating activity in three card games and his comments to a Borgata floor manager about cheating occurring at another casino. Although Borgata’s surveillance logs on Lusardi contain numerous entries, including a bizarre incident in which he is observed on tape placing a backpack, later discovered to contain a “fake” gun and a “home-made bomb,” in a trash can, most note him simply being observed after placing a large bet.

Say what?  A footnote adds this:

Given that Borgata turned over the backpack and its contents to the Atlantic City Police Department and notified the FBI, neither of which took any action, we [the appellate panel] assume the “bomb” was also not real.

It turns out that just building a fake bomb and disposing of both it and a fake gun in a casino’s trash receptacle isn’t a crime, as long as said paraphernalia wasn’t used in the commission of another crime.  Lusardi therefore wasn’t charged for the disposal of those items.  Nonetheless, it sure make one wonder just what the hell else he was planning.

The incident may have had some long-term positive impact.  In the wake of the counterfeit-chip insertion, the Borgata and several other casinos accelerated plans to embed RFID chips in their highest-value tourney and cash-game chips.  That was going to be a wave of the future anyway, since folks trying to sneak in fake chips of one sort or another happens all the time, in casinos around the globe.

Lusardi’s infamy may well fade down to a footnote in years to come, though a few fans of the game will long remember this strange, strange saga.

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