Chip Counterfeiter Nabbed in Atlantic City: Royal Flush?
NEW YORK (MainStreet) Workers at Harrah's Resort and Casino found an unusual problem last week when they responded to complaints of leaky pipes and backed up plumbing: $2.7 million in counterfeit Borgata Casino poker chips that someone had literally flushed down the drain.
The fake chips had been used in the Winter Poker Open tournament, then being held at the nearby Borgata. After Harrah's notified casino officials, a follow up investigation revealed 160 counterfeit chips already in circulation on the casino floor, worth a combined $800,000.
Although regulators at first suspended play for just 24 hours they were eventually forced to cancel Event 1 of the tournament altogether due to security concerns.
An investigation by New Jersey State Police led to the arrest of Christian Lusardi from Fayetteville, North Carolina on Friday. Officials have revealed that Harrah's employees found the $2.7 million of counterfeit chips in the plumbing leading to Lusardi's room. Although he had already left the hotel by the time of the investigation, police found him staying in a nearby motel.
Lusardi was a player in the Winter Poker Open and reportedly did well in the early rounds, winning $6,814.00. Officials say they have evidence that Lusardi used that opportunity to introduce the counterfeit chips into play on multiple occasions. They have not revealed what this evidence is, nor have police yet revealed any additional evidence beyond the chips found in the pipes leading to Lusardi's room.
Police announced the arrest, as well as information surrounding the counterfeit chips, on Friday. This was the first time that Borgata officials have revealed the details behind their reasons for canceling the January 16 tournament. At the time, the casino merely cited information about "a significant number of counterfeit chips."
More than 4,800 signed up for the Winter Poker Open. By the time Borgata officials canceled it, only 27 players remained. The casino has not yet announced how it will handle prize money or the players' buy-in fees.
Lusardi is being held in Atlantic City on $300,000 bail. He has been charged with rigging a publicly exhibited contest, criminal attempt and theft by deception.
Written for MainStreet by Eric Reed, a freelance journalist who writes frequently on the subjects of career and travel. You can read more of his work at his website www.wanderinglawyer.com.