WASHINGTON – The No. 2 officer at the military command in charge of all U.S. nuclear war-fighting forces is suspected in a case involving counterfeit gambling chips at a western Iowa casino and has been suspended from his duties, officials said.
Navy Vice Adm. Tim Giardina has not been arrested or charged, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent David Dales said Saturday. The state investigation is ongoing.
Giardina, deputy commander at U.S. Strategic Command, was suspended Sept. 3 and is under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, a Strategic Command spokeswoman said.
The highly unusual action against a high-ranking officer at Strategic Command was made more than three weeks ago but not publicly announced at that time. The command is located at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Neb.
Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, who heads Strategic Command, suspended Giardina, according to the command’s top spokeswoman, Navy Capt. Pamela Kunze. Giardina is still assigned to the command but is prohibited from performing duties related to nuclear weapons and other issues requiring a security clearance, she said.
Kehler has recommended to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Giardina be reassigned. Giardina has been the deputy commander of Strategic Command since December 2011. He is a career submarine officer and prior to starting his assignment there was the deputy commander and chief of staff at U.S. Pacific Fleet.
DCI agents stationed at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, discovered the counterfeit chips, Dales said. Council Bluffs is located across the Missouri River from Omaha.
“We were able to detect this one pretty quickly and jump on it,” Dales said. He declined to give specifics on how authorities determined that casino chips had been counterfeited or how Giardina might have been involved.