Others in the poker media have been reporting that the perpetrator of the Borgata “Chipgate” scandal from 2014, Christian Lusardi, has been released from prison. A little legwork from a valued member of the poker journalism community – and confirmed by this writer – shows that Lusardi is indeed still incarcerated in federal prison.
Reports from PokerNews poker journalist Katie Callahan indicated that Lusardi, who was sentenced in late 2015 to three to five years in federal prison for copyright infringement and trafficking in counterfeit labels (more on this in a moment), was released in July 2016 after only eight months in federal prison. Callahan, who attributed her information to Poker Fraud Alert, only discussed the issue peripherally with fellow PokerNews journalist and noted legal expert “Mac” VerStandig, who surmised it could be possible that any state charges he faced in New Jersey would have been dropped and, with only the federal case, could have been released because of cooperation in the federal investigation.
A deeper look into the Federal Bureau of Prisons and their Inmate Locator revealed the true story, however. Originally found by former Poker News Daily journalist and longtime poker industry member Jessica Welman, her investigation (as reported by OnlinePoker.net) revealed that “Christian Patrick Lusardi” is still a member of the federal prison system. He is currently incarcerated at the Edgefield Federal Corrections Institution in Edgefield, SC, with an expected release date of June 8, 2019. This writer’s own examination of the Bureau of Prisons website confirmed the information.
To this point, PokerNews has not updated their story.
The entirety of the Borgata “Chipgate” scandal reads like something out of a Marx Brothers comedy. During the 2014 Borgata Winter Poker Open, the inaugural event – a $500 buy in tournament with a $1 million guarantee – drew in well north of 2000 players to blow past the guarantee with ease. Lusardi was a part of this tournament and amongst the chip leaders after his Day One play (there were multiple Day Ones for the tournament), but he didn’t return for the second day of competition.
While the tournament staff frantically searched for Lusardi, the comedy of errors expanded. Harrah’s, located down the boardwalk from the Borgata, suffered a clog of its sewage system in the hotel and sent plumbers in to correct the issue. Upon entering the pipes, the plumbers found 2.7 million in counterfeit Borgata tournament chips stopping up the system. Researching their path, the plumbers figured out which room the chips came from – one that had been booked and used by Lusardi prior to the discovery.
Lusardi, instead of putting as much distance between him and Atlantic City as possible, was apprehended later that same day at another hotel on the beach. At that point, he confessed to creating the fake poker chips and, in a moment of panic, chucking them into the commode in his room at Harrah’s to attempt to hide his crime. He also confessed to introducing approximately 800,000 in fake tournament chips into the Borgata tournament, causing it to immediately be shut down.
As it turned out, Lusardi was no stranger to counterfeiting objects. The federal case against Lusardi alleged that he trafficked in Chinese bootleg CDs and DVDs and, as a sidelight, he created the false poker chips with the intent to defraud a Borgata tournament at some point in the future. The federal case took precedent over the state of New Jersey and the Department of Gaming Enforcement’s case against Lusardi; Lusardi plead guilty to the federal charges, receiving a five-year sentence with three years of probation. It isn’t known if the state charges in New Jersey were tied in with that sentence or whether the Borgata charges were dropped following Lusardi’s guilty plea in his federal case.
Instead of being a free man, Lusardi is still in jail and won’t see the outside of the prison in South Carolina until 2019. One might ponder if there are some times when, staring at the ceiling of his cell, Lusardi wonders if it was all worth it.