[This post has been updated.]
The Maryland State Police investigation began after officials at Maryland Live reported that they’d identified dozens of counterfeit $100 chips in circulation at the Arundel Mills casino. According a Virginia court document, fake black chips were used throughout the casino on multiple occasions by four individuals, beginning in November.
Using surveillance footage as well as driver’s license data and Nguyen’s Maryland Live player rewards card, investigators identified the four suspects and cataloged their crimes, which were committed in table-game pits and at cashier cages throughout the casino. The court document calls them “poker chips” but indicates that the fakes were used at roulette, blackjack and mini-baccarat tables, not in the Maryland Live poker room.
According to the document, Truong admitted to Maryland State Police that he purchased the counterfeit casino chips on the Internet — paying $12,000 for $150,000 worth, authorities said. The chips were altered to appear similar to Maryland Live’s black $100 chips. Approximately $4,000 in fakes were recovered from the casino, the court document said.
“They identified the counterfeit chips fairly early, so there weren’t a lot of them used,” State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said.
The investigation led to Northern Virginia, where search warrants were served last week by Virginia State Police. In Fairfax County, investigators discovered that “many of the counterfeit chips had been discarded by one of the suspects in Lake Accotink,” not far from Nguyen and Truong’s home in the 4000 block of Estabrook Drive in Annandale.
“Fortunately for police, the chips floated,” the news release said.
Authorities recovered about $115,000 worth of counterfeit casino chips from the water.
Fake chips used in scam at #Maryland Live #casino @cbsbaltimore pic.twitter.com/FasrT7us3J
— Mike Hellgren (@HellgrenWJZ) February 25, 2014
Nguyen and Truong were not arrested, but both signed a criminal summons and agreed to appear in Anne Arundel County District Court.
Police are also investigating two other people from Northern Virginia in a second case of fraudulent chip use at Maryland Live. Authorities believe the suspects — a 29-year-old male and a 35-year-old female — altered white $1 chips from Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia to make them look like black $100 chips from Maryland Live. That investigation is continuing, authorities said; according to the court document, the pair is also suspected of passing counterfeit chips at the Charles Town casino.
“We are working closely with State Police and will not be commenting on the specific details of the case, except to praise our internal security and surveillance, and the police, for their swift action,” Maryland Live officials said in a written statement. “Our team’s ability to immediately recognize the situation allowed us to provide time-sensitive information to investigators that led to the speedy apprehension of the suspects without any financial impact to our operation. This result clearly demonstrates that the systems and training deployed at Maryland Live Casino are highly effective and should serve as a deterrent to criminal behavior.”
The news may ring somewhat familiar: Just last month, a North Carolina man was arrested in Atlantic City after he flushed $2.7 million in counterfeit poker-tournament chips from Borgata Hotel Casino down a toilet at Harrah’s Resort. The chips clogged the sewage pipes and were discovered by Harrah’s employees who were investigating guest complaints of water leaking into their rooms, according to the Press of Atlantic City.
The discovery “set off a chain of events that ultimately shut down Event 1 in the Borgata Winter Poker Open on Jan. 16,” according to the Press. “Spurred by the discovery at Harrah’s, Borgata employees later found an additional 160 forged chips — totaling $800,000 — had been introduced into play, and regulators canceled the tournament.”
Christian Lusardi of Fayetteville, N.C., was arrested by New Jersey State Police on Jan. 24 at a Super 8 Motel in Atlantic City and charged with — among other things — rigging a publicly exhibited contest, the Press reported. According to the Press, “police said Lusardi introduced the counterfeit chips into the tournament on multiple occasions. Meanwhile, he won $6,814 during the tournament.”
A class-action lawsuit has been filed in Atlantic County Superior Court against the Borgata, the Press of Atlantic City reported last week. The lawsuit — filed by a local resident filed “on behalf of more than 4,000 people who entered Event 1 in the Borgata Winter Poker Open” — “alleges fraud and negligence on the part of Borgata and accuses the casino of failing to properly supervise the event,” the Press said.
Justin Jouvenal contributed to this report.