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Civil Class Action Suit Filed in Borgata Counterfeit Chip Case

borgata-logoThe story of the Borgata counterfeit-chip caper grows ever more complicated following the filing of a civil class action suit yesterday on behalf of New Jersey player Jacob Musterel.  The suit, filed by Raritan, NJ malpractice attorney Bruce LiCausi, alleges negligent supervision of the 4,824-player event by casino tournament supervisors and staff.

The negligence, according to the lawsuit, allowed Christian Lusardi to introduce 160 “5,000” counterfeit Borgata tournament chips of dubious quality over more than a day’s worth of tournament play.  Lusardi emerged as one of the three leaders of three separate Day 1 flights, with an announced first day’s chip total significantly higher than any other player.

Lusardi was eliminated late on Day 2 of the event, cashing for over $6,000, and was subsequently arrested after a hilarious and poorly-thought-out plan to dispose of another 2.7 million in counterfeit tourney chips at another Atlantic City property, Harrahs.  Lusardi’s attempt to flush the chips down a Harrah’s hotel toilet caused significant plumbing problems which were traced to his room, and ultimately led to his exposure as the fake-chip introducer.

The tournament itself was cancelled by New Jersey gaming regulators early on its official Day 3, with 27 players still remaining and more than $1.4 million in prize money still to be awarded.

The ongoing lack of a resolution in the case is what led to the lawsuit, according to LiCausi, who is representing Musterel.  (Update: Musterel, a New Jersey local from nearby Egg Harbor, is not among the 27 players remaining in the event whose real chances at a six-digit payday appear to have been dashed by the cheating episode, contrary to early published reports.)

According to a New Jersey Law Review report (registration required), which may have been alerted to the filing of the lawsuit by LiCausi, the Borgata’s supervisors “knew their security and preventative measures to be inadequate to detect, let alone prevent, even an unsophisticated attempt by a player to compromise the event by introducing substantial numbers of counterfeit chips into play,”

The lawsuit, filed as docket # L-000701-14, lists the Borgata’s parent operating company, Marina District Finance Company, Inc. as a sole defendant.

The NJLR report, working from a copy of the complaint not yet made public, states that the complaint accuses the Borgata of failing to refund entry fees and attempting to whitewash the incident as a “learning experience” and an “opportunity to improve security.”  Quoting directly, the NJLR update states that the complaint alleges, “Disgracefully, however, Defendants’ security ‘education’ unjustly comes at the expense of the Plaintiff and the other members of the Plaintiff class.”

LiCausi’s specific mention of the entry fees appears to be a call for all players to join his action, even though as much as half of the field was likely eliminated in the other two Day 1 flights separate from Lusardi’s, without any exposure to the cheating that ensued.  Nonetheless, roughly 2,000 players could have their tournament chances impacted in one manner or another by the “ripple effect” caused by the introduction of the 160 fake chips by Lusardi.

LiCausi wasted no time in publicizing the filing of the case, also speaking to Press of Atlantic City reporter Jennifer Bogdan.  (Attempts by FlushDraw to reach LiCausi on Saturday were unsuccessful.)  LiCausi boasted about the case’s merits to Bogdan, telling her, “In my 31 years in practice, I have to say this is one of the cleanest claims we’ve had.  Borgata holds itself as a respected provider of poker tournaments. They might say this is a learning experience for them, and while that’s laudable, it’s at the expense of the thousands who traveled to Atlantic City and entered this tournament under the expectation that it would be run properly.”

Multiple Borgata spokespeople and legal representatives declined to comment on the filing when queried by multiple media outlets, citing the “ongoing investigation” status, with the entire cheating episode still under review by New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement officials.  Lusardi, to date the only person charged, remains jailed in New Jersey.  Lusardi was also recently charged for his role in a bootleg-DVD scheme, including the seizure of roughly 37,000 fake DVDs from his North Carolina home.

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