Christian Lusardi Arrested in Connection with Borgata Counterfeit Chip Caper
Atlantic City’s Borgata casino and investigators from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement have announced an arrest connected to last week’s bizarre cancellation of the opening event in the 2014 Borgata Winter Poker Open, following the discovery of more than 200 counterfeit, high-denomination tournament chips that had been introduced by one or more players.
Though a brief release (below) by the Borgata did not mention the arrested party by name, a report published by the Press of Atlantic City confirmed the alleged culprit as Christian Lusardi, 42, of Fayetteville, North Carolina. Lusardi was alleged to have inserted the counterfeit chips — each with a non-cash-value denomination of “5,000” — at several times during the tournament. Lusardi ended the event’s Day 1C flight as the tournament’s runaway leader, though that now appears to have been the result of fraudulent play.
The PressOfAtlanticCity.com report on Lusardi’s arrest also confirmed a couple of rumors regarding the counterfeit-chip scheme that had been widely circulated but prior to today, lacked for verification. The major break in the case, according to the story, occurred when officials at another Atlantic City casino, Harrah’s, discovered $2.7 million in similar tourney-value, counterfeit chips that had been flushed down a toilet in an apparent attempt to dispose of evidence. Instead, the chips clogged the plumbing, necessitating repairs, and Harrah’s staff notified the Borgata of the fake-chip find. The room, in turn, was registered to Lusardi, with officials likely then keying in on his activities at the Borgata while reviewing security footage.
Rumors of as much as $5 million (not real money, but about 1,000 of the fake “5,000” tourney chips) being discovered in the plumbing at Harrah’s had circulated in Atlantic City poker rooms and online discussion boards almost from the time the tournament itself was frozen at the demand of DGE investigators.
Lusardi was detained on a $300,000 bond, after being charged with rigging a publicly exhibited contest, criminal attempt, and theft by deception. He cashed for $6,814 in the event before being eliminated late on Day 2, while the event’s 27 Day 3 survivors remain uncertain about the disposition of the tournament’s remaining prize pool, some $1.4 million of which is still unrewarded.
Lusardi, who has only a couple of other tournament cashes to his record, also had at least one gambling scrape on his record in his native North Carolina. In 2008, Lusardi was charged with illegal gambling and alcohol sales after officers arrested 39 players at a multi-table game he operated. Lusardi had roughly $10,000 seized in that arrest and subsequent home search; among the other arrestees in that case, also on gambling charges, was his mother, Diana. (The above mugshot of Lusardi is from 2008, and is from that case.)
Numerous questions remain, including whether or not Lusardi acted alone. A major thread on the Borgata event cancellation included a curious post from someone who may or may not have been Lusardi, posting prior to his arrest, though enough general information about the counterfeits and cheating had surfaced to make the possibility of a skilled “troll” by an unknown poster an alternate possibility.
Another late addition to the thread, which may have legal relevance in Lusardi’s upcoming legal case, is a curious find suggesting that someone named “Christian Lusardi” may have sought to order knockoff chips from a Chinese chip manufacturer last October, via the large wholesale-manufacturing Internet bazaar Alibaba.com. As with the 2+2 posting, it is also possible that some of the information available for public view on this page could have been spoofed, and warrants further investigation. The information was originally posted by someone using the handle “charterzen“, in a new account apparently created just to out the possible link.
More information on Lusardi’s arrest and the allegations made against him is likely to be release in the near future. The initial Borgata blog post about the arrest, which did not mention Lusardi by name, follows:
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