Real Admiral Timothy Giardina was tied to the counterfeit poker chips he used at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, suggesting that he may have manufactured the chips himself.
Those allegations have come to light after the Associated Press obtained documents from a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) report that detailed their investigation and some of the evidence collected against the former second in command at US Strategic Command.
Giardina came to public attention in June 2013, when he was caught using three fake chips at a poker table in the Horseshoe Casino.
Giardina denied knowing that the chips were fake, originally saying that he had purchased them from someone in the men’s bathroom at a discount.
He would later change his story, saying he found the chips in the bathroom instead. According to Giardina, he lied out of fear in early sessions with Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations Special Agent David Hendrix.
However, he maintained that he didn’t know the chips were fake when he passed them into play.
NCIS Investigation Finds Giardina’s DNA on Adhesive Paper
The newly revealed NCIS report cast doubt on this story, suggesting that Giardina not only knew the chips were phony, but that he may have created them himself.
The counterfeit chips were made by taking standard $1 chips and painting them. The markings of a $500 chip were then printed or scanned onto adhesive paper, which was placed on the chips to make them look legitimate.
It was that adhesive paper that ultimately gave NCIS investigators the evidence they needed. Giardina’s DNA was found on the underside of one of the stickers, suggesting that he made the chips himself.
“He made the chips. He actually counterfeited those chips,” said Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber. “I never really bought his story about finding them in the john.”
That evidence may be what led to Giardina’s punishment by the Navy. In the aftermath of the incident, Giardina was fired from Strategic Command and demoted one rank, from Vice Admiral to Rear Admiral.
He was reassigned to a staff position in Washington, where he remains employed by the Navy.
While Naval officials did not pursue a court martial, fearing that they didn’t have the evidence to convict him, Giardina did face non-judicial proceedings in May.
He was found guilty of two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer, one for passing the counterfeit chips and another for lying to investigators about it. He was reprimanded and had to forfeit $4,000 in pay.
Wilber says that he is unlikely to prosecute Giardina in civilian court, even though a conviction would have been very possible, a harsh punishment would not have been likely.
“That $4,000 fine is probably worse than he would have gotten in state court,” Wilber said. “If the Navy feels that’s appropriate punishment, then so be it.”
While there are no Naval rules against gambling so long as it is done legally, the report also revealed just how avid a poker player Giardina was.
He had spent nearly 1,100 hours playing poker at the Horseshoe between December 2011 and June 2013. That made him a regular to many of his opponents and the casino staff, who referred to him as “Navy Tim.”