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July 22, 2014

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Clogged pipe brings arrest in Atlantic City fake-chips case

Image

Wayne Parry / AP

In this June 26, 2013, photo, the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is seen in Atlantic City, N.J., with the nearby Water Club reflected in its gold glass facade.

ATLANTIC CITY — Talk about a royal flush!

A clogged pipe at an Atlantic City casino hotel room led to the discovery of counterfeit poker chips with a tournament value of 2.7 million that had been flushed down a toilet.

That, in turn, led authorities to a man they say sneaked fake chips into a poker tournament at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, prompting the cancellation of one of its events last week.

Christian Lusardi, of Fayetteville, N.C., was arrested Friday at a motel in Atlantic City on charges including theft and rigging a public contest. It was unknown if he had a lawyer. A phone registered to his name in Fayetteville was answered by a recording indicating it was no longer in service.

Borgata senior vice president Joe Lupo said the first indication that anything was amiss came when his casino received a call from Harrah's, nearby it in the city's marina district, about a mile away from Atlantic City's Boardwalk.

Borgata staff then checked the chips being used in the Borgata Winter Poker Open and found 160 of the counterfeit poker chips with a tournament value of 5,000, totaling 800,000, among the genuine casino chips. The compromise forced officials to cancel Event 1 of the tournament, while dozens of uncompromised events were allowed to continue.

The entry fee for the tournament was $560, but the chips the players used in the tournament don't have any value as U.S. currency.

The state Division of Gaming Enforcement temporarily froze the prize money involved in the canceled event. Lupo said that edict from the state remains in effect.

"We are very pleased that the New Jersey State Police Casino Gaming Bureau has apprehended a suspect in connection with the counterfeit chip activity that compromised Event 1 of the Borgata Poker Open," Lupo said. "While this is a very positive development, the investigation by the (Division of Gaming Enforcement) and the state police is ongoing."

The Division of Gaming Enforcement couldn't immediately say what would become of prize money or buy-in fees paid by players.

"The division is committed to ensuring confidence and integrity in all gaming operations and will continue to work with Borgata and the New Jersey State Police until this case is closed," it said in a statement.

The investigation revealed evidence that Lusardi introduced the counterfeit chips into the tournament on multiple occasions, state police Trooper Jeffrey Flynn said. It also was determined that Lusardi won $6,814 during the tournament.

Lusardi was jailed on $300,000 bail, with no option to pay 10 percent in cash to gain his release.

The event under scrutiny is the tournament's Big Stack, No Limit Hold 'Em event. It began on Tuesday and there were 27 people remaining in the contest when play was suspended.

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