ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — A clogged pipe in an Atlantic City casino-hotel room led to the discovery of $2.7 million in counterfeit poker chips 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 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.
Borgata’s senior vice president, Joe Lupo, said the first indication anything was amiss came when his casino received a call from Harrah’s Atlantic City Resort and Casino, about a mile away from the boardwalk.
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Harrah’s maintenance workers had discovered a sewer pipe clogged with Borgata chips. An investigation found that Lusardi, 42, was staying in the room at Harrah’s where the pipes were clogged.
Borgata employees then checked the chips being used in the Borgata Winter Poker Open and found 160 of the $5,000-denomination counterfeit poker chips, totaling $800,000, among the genuine casino chips. That forced officials to cancel Event 1 of the tournament; dozens of events that were not compromised by fake chips continued.
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.
The Division of Gaming Enforcement couldn’t immediately say what would become of prize money or buy-in fees paid by players.
The investigation revealed evidence 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.