Christian Lusardi

Christian Lusardi and the Bootleg DVD Stash

lusardi-mug-2More background in the case of accused Borgata tournament poker chip counterfeiter Christian Lusardi has emerged in recent days, including evidence that he’s been a chronic small-time criminal who is also now involved in a federal scrape for importing, manufacturing and trying to sell thousands of bootleg DVDs.

Lusardi’s sudden climb to infamy came courtesy of his recent appearance at the 2014 Borgata Winter Poker Open in New Jersey, where the mostly unknown player garnered a few headlines after leading one of the opening event’s three flights with a Day 1 finishing stack significantly larger than any of his playing competitors.  This was the same event that was suspended by New Jersey gaming authorities a little over a day later, following the discovery of hundreds of counterfeit chips.

That discovery was spurred on by a phone call from another AC casino, Harrah’s, which found hundreds of the faked Borgata chips flushed into the hotel’s plumbing, which then caused leaks in several nearby rooms.  Plumbers fixed the leaks and discovered the source of the chips: Lusardi’s room.  Lusardi had checked out of the Harrah’s digs and moved into a nearby Super 8, but authorities quickly tracked him down and arrested him nonetheless.

Evidence of Lusardi’s sketchy gambling past quickly emerged, including a previous arrest for running a large poker home game in North Carolina, plus curious evidence that he had possible obtained the blanks for his counterfeit chips from an online Chinese-manufacturing bazaar, AliBaba.com.

In addition the all the new bootleg-DVD stuff, the latest reports confirm the Chinese chip connection.  According to a Press of Atlantic City report, investigators have now interviewed several people close to Lusardi in North Carolina, including both an ex-wife and current girlfriend.

The ex-wife (unnamed in the story), told the investigators that Her and Lusardi’s daughter had reported helping Lusardi spray-paint some plastic chips, which Lusardi had stamped himself, while the girlfriend, Tiffany Decarlo, admitted telling authorities that Lusardi had received a package of chips from China, which Lusardi then drop-shipped to himself at the Harrah’s casino in Atlantic City.

The separate but parallel stories, not tied together fully in the Press of AC piece, offer one likely explanation to the tales offered by other Borgata tourney players that at least three different versions of the “5,000” gray denomination Borgata chips seemed to be in play.  It is now possible that two of the three versions — including one that other players said looked shiny and spray-painted — were different counterfeit versions that were both introduced by Lusardi.

A third North Carolina person, poker player Shaheim Sheridan, also told authorities that Lusardi had approached him last July about infiltrating fake chips into a large poker tourney.  Sheridan reportedly declined Lusardi’s invite and has not been charged, but the tale indicates that Lusardi’s plan was premeditated for quite some time.

The gambling-fraud charges facing Lusardi, who remains jailed, may pale in comparison to the bootleg-DVD case also pending against him.  According to this report from a Raleigh, NC TV station, customs agents had been monitoring Lusardi’s activities since 2012, and have now charged him copyright infringement after discovering, via search warrant, some 37,500 bootleg DVDs.  Many were imported from China, while others appear to have been homemade by Lusardi, who also possessed DVD-burning and packaging equipment.

According to the WRAL.com report, “Investigators were able to determine that Lusardi made close to $1 million selling the DVDs online, as well as an undetermined sum selling them at flea markets in Raleigh and Fayetteville.”

Lusardi, who was unable to post the $300,000 bond in the Borgata counterfeit-chip caper, may still face additional charges.  His fraudulent chips may produce effects far beyond the $6,000 or so he actually cashed out from the tourney, which itself was frozen at the start of its Day 3, when 27 players and more than $1.4 million in prize money remained.

The investigation into the Borgata matter remains ongoing, with Borgata and New Jersey DGE officials likely still weeks away from announcing a refund plan or any method of distributing the remaining prize money.  Given the length of time that Lusardi’s fake chips were in play, it is unlikely that any solution can be found that will satisfy all possibly impacted players to their full satisfaction without inflicting millions in extra penalties against the Borgata, a scenario unlikely to occur.

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