ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – A man admitted Thursday that he brought millions of dollars in counterfeit poker chips to use in a casino's poker tournament, a scheme that was uncovered when he clogged a pipe by flushing the chips down the toilet in his hotel room.
Christian Lusardi, 43, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to trademark counterfeiting and criminal mischief. Under terms of a plea agreement, Lusardi will be sentenced to five years in prison.
Authorities said Lusardi, after suspecting the fake chips had been noticed, flushed them 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 found, although they have no actual cash value.
Lusardi will be required to pay the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa $463,540 for the revenue it lost when it canceled the 2014 tournament after discovering the fake chips. He also owes Harrah's Casino Hotel $9,455 for damaging the pipes.
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 Division of Gaming Enforcement Director David Rebuck issued an order to distribute the money and refund entry fees.
Lusardi had won $6,814 in the tournament.
Investigators said he purchased the chips from a Chinese manufacturer online 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.