More Poker Chip Capers, Pt. 2: Virginia Couple Arrested for Fake Casino Chips

More Poker Chip Capers, Pt. 2: Virginia Couple Arrested for Fake Casino Chips

Some of the fake chips being passed at Maryland Live! (Source: WBAL.com)

Some of the fake chips being passed at Maryland Live! (Source: WBAL.com)

Continuing in a recent theme of counterfeit casino-chip stories comes the tale of a northern Virginia couple arrested for passing Chinese-made counterfeit chips at the Maryland Live! Casino in Hanover, Maryland, not far from Baltimore.  According to reports, Rosa A. Nguyen, 36, and her husband, Vuong Q. Truong, 37, both of Annandale, Virginia, in Fairfax County, were arrested after police and casino officials became aware of fake $100 chips being passed at the casino in January.

The investigation quickly led to Truong and Nguyen, with Nguyen, according to a police report, admitting that she had purchased $150,000 worth of the fake chips over the internet for about $12,000, which she then further altered to look more like Maryland Live! $100 casino chips.

At some point point the couple may have become aware that casino officials were investigating the fake chips, and tried to dispose of most of their fakes in Virginia’s Lake Accotink, not far from the couple’s home.  Virginia police were able to recover about $115,000 of the fake $150,000 in chips from the lake, in large part because the chips were cheap, lightweight fakes.  According to a Maryland Police press release, “Fortunately for police, the chips floated.”

Truong has been charged with four counts of committing a theft scheme and one count of conspiracy to commit theft, while Nguyen, who actually ordered the fake chips, has been charged with one count of theft between $1,000 and $10,000, and two counts of conspiracy to commit theft between $1,000 and $10,000.

As with the recent fake-chip saga at New Jersey’s Borgata casino involving alleged tournament cheater Christian Lusardi, there appears to be a surge in petty criminals ordering fake chips from unscrupulous overseas manufacturers — usually in China but also occasionally in India — willing to make “replica” chips that are then inserted into play at the casinos.

Lusardi, like Nguyen, ordered fake chips online, and a quick scan of available chip designs shows such major tourney venues as the WPT and EPT being targeted by replica knockoffs.  The cash-table chips of local casinos are often targeted by would-be fakers, as in this AliBaba.com ad by a Chinese manufacturer showing fakes from two different Tulsa, Oklahoma area casinos.

Fortunately, the chips usually differ in weight and construction from the more expensive real chips in use, so the thieves are often caught, though this form of chip-faking seems to be a growing problem.  The Maryland Police presser also states that a second Northern Virginia couple is also under investigation for an unrelated counterfeit chip-passing scheme.

The Maryland police have declined, to date, to name the second couple, pending completion of the investigation and possible arrest, though they are described as “a boyfriend and girlfriend also from Northern Virginia,” a 29-year-old man and a 35-year-old woman.  The couple is believed to have bought a large quantity of white $1 chips from the Hollywod Casino in Charles Town, West Virginia, not far from the metro Washington-Baltimore area. then altered them to look like larger-value chips being used at both the Charles Town and Maryland Live! venues.

Given enough of these types of cases, casinos may eventually begin to be pushed toward RFID-embedded chips, at least in the highest-value denominations, perhaps $100 and up.  RFID-implanted chips have been discussed in this way for the better part of a decade, but have been cost-prohibitive to date, perhaps doubling the manufacturing cost for an individual chip.  In addition, RFID technology is only effective when the chips are actively being scanned, meaning that it’s only when a fake chip -doesn’t- register on a scanner, would casino staffers be alerted to its presence.  Such absence-of-signal instances would be notoriously difficult to monitor in a busy casino atmosphere.

Nonetheless, the fake-chip stories appear to be a growing problem.  As more casinos become aware of and publicly address the threat, these types of news stories are likely to return to the headlines in the future.

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