OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Iowa will take no legal action against the No. 2 officer in charge of U.S. nuclear war-fighting forces who is accused of using counterfeit gambling chips at a casino in the state, officials said Tuesday.
Nonetheless Navy Vice Adm. Tim Giardina could still face federal charges.
Giardina was suspended Sept. 3 while Naval Criminal Investigative Service examines the allegation that he used $1,500 in counterfeit chips at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa in June.
Matt Wilbur, the top prosecutor in Iowa’s Pottawattamie County, said Giardina’s lack of a criminal record coupled with his distinguished service to the country makes it very likely he would avoid serious punishment in a state court. But the Defense Department can take action against him under the military code of conduct.
“They assured us they would have the ability to deal with him,” Wilbur said.
Naval Criminal Investigative Service spokesman Ed Buice said a federal investigation is underway but that the agency won’t comment on ongoing investigations.
Giardina officially remains deputy commander at U.S. Strategic Command, which is based at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, but is prohibited from performing duties involving nuclear weapons or requiring a security clearance.
Strategic Command oversees the military’s nuclear fighter units, including the Navy’s nuclear-armed submarines and the Air Force’s nuclear bombers and nuclear land-based missiles.
The head of Strategic Command, Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, has recommended that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reassign Giardina.
Before Giardina started his assignment at Strategic Command in December 2011, he was deputy commander and chief of staff at U.S. Pacific Fleet. He is a career submarine officer.
The allegations against Giardina follow two other troubling incidents involving the military’s nuclear establishment.
The nuclear missile unit at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., pulled 17 launch control officers off duty last spring after a problematic inspection and later relieved of duty the officer in charge of training and proficiency.
At Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., a nuclear missile unit failed a nuclear safety and security inspection in August. Then an officer in charge of that unit’s security forces was relieved of duty nine days later.
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