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Duluth man indicted in Atlantic City gambling fraud

A Duluth man is among four indicted Thursday in what New Jersey authorities say was a high-tech poker scam in Atlantic City. The four -- James Harrison, 42, of Duluth and Las Vegas residents Joseph Ingargiola, 51, Stephen Phillips, 53, and Steven...

A Duluth man is among four indicted Thursday in what New Jersey authorities say was a high-tech poker scam in Atlantic City.

The four -- James Harrison, 42, of Duluth and Las Vegas residents Joseph Ingargiola, 51, Stephen Phillips, 53, and Steven Forte, 52 -- each face a charge of second-degree attempted theft by deception. The indictment was handed up Thursday by a grand jury in Atlantic County.

Forte is a well-known gambling consultant who once hosted his own television show.

Harrison answered the door of his "Dribble Creek Ranch'' residence in rural Duluth today, but said he had no comment on the case against him. A realtor's "For Sale" sign stood near the driveway.

According to the New Jersey Attorney General's office:

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- The Atlantic County grand jury indictment alleges that the four defendants plotted to cheat a man, identified in the indictment only as "J.H.," who was invited to participate on June 7, 2007, in a tournament involving high-stakes games of Chinese poker, backgammon and chess in a hotel room at the Borgata. The four men allegedly had rigged the hotel room and a nearby room with hidden surveillance cameras, audio equipment, computers and other high-tech devices that would be used to cheat the victim out of more than $75,000, according to the indictment.

- The defendants allegedly intended to use the equipment to secretly monitor the games from the second room. The victim was to play an opponent who was part of the alleged scheme. The defendants allegedly planned to use marked playing cards for the Chinese poker so they could identify the victim's cards and transmit instructions to the opposing player, who would be wearing a concealed earpiece. They also allegedly intended to use the equipment to monitor the games of backgammon and chess, so that computer programs could be used to calculate the countermoves that offered the best odds of winning.

On the afternoon of June 7, 2007, shortly before the victim was to arrive, the State Police executed a search warrant for the two hotel rooms, arresting the four defendants and seizing the equipment described in the indictment. Each of the defendants was later released on bail. They remain free on bail.

A person answering the phone at a Las Vegas number listed in Forte's name would not take a message for him. Listings for the others could not be located.

The charges are the result of an investigation by detectives from the New Jersey State Police Organized Crime Control Bureau Casino Unit assigned to the Division of Gaming Enforcement.

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