Monday, Feb. 22, 2010 | 3:29 p.m.
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A Wisconsin businessman pleaded not guilty Monday in district court to bad check charges stemming from $3.75 million in gambling markers.
Christian Peterson, 41, of Verona, Wis., pleaded not guilty to two counts of drawing and passing a check without sufficient funds with intent to defraud and one count of theft in connection with four markers – one at Caesars Palace for $3.45 million and three totaling $300,000 at the Hard Rock Hotel.
He was indicted on the charges earlier this month by a Clark County grand jury.
“All of it is in dispute,” Chris Rasmussen, Peterson’s attorney, said before Monday’s hearing in front of Clark County District Court Hearing Master Kevin Williams. “He never ran up that kind of debt and how he got that much credit is shocking.”
A suit Peterson filed against Harrah’s Entertainment in June 2008 indicates Peterson disputes how the markers were signed.
Grand jury testimony indicates that Harrah’s furnished Peterson a jet for transportation to-and-from Las Vegas in April 2008.
Peterson’s lawsuit claims Harrah’s provided the jet despite awareness of his problems with gambling.
His suit also claims that about 45 minutes into his flight home on April 22, 2008, a flight attendant informed Peterson the jet would be returning to Las Vegas for an emergency landing due to mechanical difficulties.
Peterson feared for his life, the suit says.
Upon arrival in Las Vegas, Peterson was greeted by a Harrah’s representative who told him he had to sign a casino marker before he could leave on the company jet.
The Harrah’s representative told the grand jury Peterson was made aware that he was free to leave at any point on a commercial airliner without signing the markers, but that in order to take the jet, his signature would be required. Peterson signed the marker and took the jet home.
Petersons’ suit said he was left with no choice but to sign the marker. His lawsuit was resolved in November 2009 with a judgment in favor of Harrah’s. Peterson was ordered to pay about $2.6 million — the remainder of his marker after his estimated $1.5 million winnings, plus interest.
If convicted, Peterson could face up to 18 years in prison. A trial was set for June 1.
The Wisconsin State-Journal reported Peterson has been involved in a variety of businesses in the Madison area, including restaurants, a hotel, an indoor golf dome and development of property for a Target store.
The paper also reported he was involved in a reality-television show that was never broadcast called the “American Dream,” which he showcased at one of his restaurants. The winner of the show, which drew contestants from across the Midwest, was supposed to become part-owner of one of his restaurants.