Rear Admiral Timothy Giardina has been linked to the counterfeit poker chips he use in a casino last year, with new evidence suggesting that he may have actually created the chips himself. According to a Naval Criminal Investigating Service (NCIS) report obtained by the Associated Press, Giardina may have used genuine $1 chips and then painted them and used stickers to make them appear like $500 poker chips instead.
The story of Giardina, who was second in command at Strategic Command, the headquarters for the military’s nuclear arsenal, first broke last year. He supposedly used counterfeit chips at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs in Iowa last June, a decision that saw him banned from the Horseshoe and another Harrah’s casino for 90 days. When he later tried to play poker at the Horseshoe before that ban expired, he was then banned for life from all Caesars Entertainment properties.
The Navy reprimanded Giardina for the incidents. While they did not try to court martial him because of what they felt was relatively weak evidence, in May 2014 he was found guilty of two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer, both for lying to investigators and for using the counterfeit chips. He was also ordered to surrender $4,000 in pay. While he was fired from Strategic Command and demoted to a two-star admiral, he does remain employed as a staff officer in Washington.
The new records that were obtained by the AP revealed just how much time Giardina spent playing poker at the casino. Over the 18 months before he was caught with the counterfeit chips, the admiral played nearly 1,100 hours of poker at the Horseshoe, or an average of about 15 hours each week. Players and staff there knew him as “Navy Tim,” though it’s not clear whether they knew just how prominent a position he held in the military.
There’s no military policy, even for senior officers with security clearance, that prohibits them from gambling legally in casinos. The new records show that Giardina was well aware of this, saying that his recreational choices shouldn’t be used against him.
“Regardless of anyone’s opinion on the matter, disapproval of the legal manner in which I spent portions of my off-duty time is not adequate grounds to allege criminal misconduct,” Giardina told Admiral Bill Gortney in an initial statement.
But the NCIS investigation found that Giardina hadn’t simply accidentally used the counterfeit chips, but likely created them himself. DNA evidence was found on the back of the adhesive paper used to affix the stickers to the $1 chips that linked them to Giardina, suggesting that he didn’t simply find those chips in the men’s bathroom as he maintained.
The new evidence came as little surprise to Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber.
“He made the chips. He actually counterfeited those chips,” said Wilber. “I never really bought his story about finding them in the john. There’s no question in my mind that it was not a true story.”
Giardina declined to respond to the newly-publicized report, instead referring the AP back to his original statement, in which he still denied having any role in creating the chips or any knowledge that they were fake when he used them.