A poker player is going to prison for bringing millions of dollars in counterfeit chips to a tournament and then breaking the plumbing when he flushed them down a toilet to hide the evidence.
A judge on Thursday sentenced Christian Lusardi to five years in prison. Lusardi also must pay $463,540 in restitution to the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa for the revenue it lost when it canceled the 2014 tournament in Atlantic City and $9,455 to Harrah's Casino Hotel for damaging its plumbing.
Lusardi, 43, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to trademark counterfeiting and criminal mischief.
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Authorities said Lusardi suspected his scheme had been discovered so he flushed the fake chips down the toilet in his room at Harrah's Resort Atlantic City, where he had been staying. But the chips clogged the pipes, and guests on the floor below complained that water was dripping into their rooms.
Maintenance was called, and the chips were found. An additional 22 tournament chips worth $5,000 were found in a clogged toilet in the Borgata the next day. A total of $3.6 million worth of tournament chips were recovered, though they had no actual cash value.
The tournament was supposed to run for three weeks but was terminated after three days when the counterfeit poker chips were found. Investigators determined $800,000 in fake chips had been put into play during the first two days of the tournament.
There were 27 people remaining in the Borgata Winter Open Big Stack, No Limit Hold 'Em event when play was suspended. The $1.5 million in remaining prize money was put on hold before the state Division of Gaming Enforcement ordered the money be distributed and entry fees refunded.
Lusardi had won $6,814 in the tournament.
Investigators said he purchased the chips online from a Chinese manufacturer and then put a counterfeit Borgata logo on them. In response to the scam, the Borgata began using more intricate chips with more colors and an authentication element that can be checked under ultraviolet light.