Christian Lusardi Enters Guilty Plea in Borgata Counterfeit Chip Case
Accused poker cheater Christian Lusardi has pled guilty to fouling a major January 2014 poker tournament at Atlantic City, New Jersey’s Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa by introducing large quantities of counterfeit poker chips, eventually causing the cancellation of million-dollar-plus event.
Lusardi, now 43, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, entered his guilty plea on Thursday before New Jersey Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury, acknowledging that he was the mastermind, so to speak, of the scheme in which more than 160 fake “$5,000” tournament poker chips were introduced into a large rebuy event early in the Borgata’s 2014 Winter Poker Open.
Hundreds more of the fake chips obtained by Lusardi bobbed into view after he attempted to flush them down the toilet in a nearby Harrah’s Atlantic City hotel room, thus rupturing the plumbing. Lusardi was arrested within a week of the caper after being identified as the culprit through the casino’s security tapes and registration records. Meanwhile, the Borgata event was cancelled shortly after Lusardi himself was eliminated, despite his extensive use of the fake chips. Both the Borgata and the 27 remaining players in that event at the time of its cancellation suffered significant financial injury as a result of Lusardi’s misdeeds.
Lusardi pled guilty in yesterday’s hearing to charges of trademark counterfeiting and criminal mischief. He may face as much as five years in prison on the charges, though he is already serving a five-year term in connection with separate DVD-counterfeiting charges to which he pled guilty earlier this year. Whether or not Judge DeLury decides the sentence — whatever it turns out to be — should be served consecutively or concurrently will have the largest impact on Lusardi’s eventual and ultimate release date.
Lusardi was also ordered to pay restitution to the two Atlantic City casinos adversely impacted by his actions, the Borgata and Harrah’s. The plea deal contains restitution orders of $463,540 to the Borgata for the lost revenue from the cancelled January 2014 poker tourney, and of $9,455 to Harrah’s, for the plumbing damage Lusardi caused.
It is unlikely, however, that the Borgata or Harrah’s will ever collect a significant amount. Besides being imprisoned, Lusardi’s existing assets were already targeted under a seizure order in connection with the earlier DVD-counterfeiting case.
The 27 finalists in the poker event fouled by Lusardi have even less likelihood of collecting from Lusardi, should they consider targeting him with civil actions of their own. Those players already received a partial settlement of sorts via the official cancellation of the event and a refund/settlement schedule as ordered by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. Several of those players found the ruling unsatisfactory and attempted a lawsuit against the Borgata, alleging negligent oversight, but were rebuffed in those efforts by a New Jersey judge’s home-court ruling.
The Borgata has subsequently introduced higher-tech chips to its tournament offerings which reportedly include UV inks that are easily spotted and differentiated via UV-filtered security cameras. Other casinos, both within the US and globally, have slowly moved to enhanced tourney and cash-game chips in recent years. The Lusardi scheme was only the largest and highest-profile of several recent cases involving fake chips being introduced into various casino table games. In virtually every case, the culprits obtained the chips via so-called “pirate” chip wholesalers based in China who marketed their chips via online sites. Lusardi was specifically tied to one such site, and admitted obtaining his counterfeit chips in that manner.