Chen Chiang Liu dealt in counterfeit $100 bills authentic enough to trick bill validators installed in Las Vegas slot machines.
A Las Vegas jury didn't find his defense so convincing.
The 45-year-old man was found guilty Wednesday of coordinating the delivery and sale of millions of dollars worth of North Korean-produced "Supernotes," a high-quality counterfeit currency.
After a seven-day trial, Liu was convicted of one count of conspiracy to sell, deal and pass counterfeit U.S. currency and one count of fraudulently passing and keeping counterfeit U.S. currency.
According to the U.S. attorney's office, Liu transported the fake bills to Las Vegas and used them in slot machines. He played a nominal amount of money before cashing out and receiving authentic currency.
Liu met with an undercover FBI agent in March 2005 to negotiate the sale of the Supernotes. Between April and August of 2005, Liu delivered $2 million in bogus $100 bills to the agent.
During the trial, undercover agent Robert Hamer was heard on a recorded phone conversation discussing the delivery process with Liu. Hamer said he preferred to have the money delivered by sea, explaining that he had connections with customs officers at Southern California ports.
Liu's wife, Teresa Liu, was also charged in the case. When authorities converged on the couple in Las Vegas in July, they found 301 Supernotes in Teresa Liu's possession. But as the seven-day trial wound down, U.S. District Judge James Mahan ruled there was not enough evidence against the wife.
Attorneys argued that Teresa Liu gambled her own legitimate U.S. currency during Las Vegas visits.
According to the complaint, Caesars Palace officials contacted federal authorities on July 29, 2007, after discovering seven counterfeit $100 bills in slot machines. Further investigation showed a total of 60 counterfeit bills in 13 machines at the casino.
Security reviewed surveillance video and discovered the same man at 12 of the 13 machines from which the bogus money was retrieved. Chen Chiang Liu unknowingly assisted in the investigation by using his own Caesars Palace rewards card.
Authorities corroborated the security officers' report by reviewing the play on Liu's rewards card. The card showed he had inserted 64 $100 bills into the machines.
On July 30, 2007, Caesars Palace security guards detained Liu as he and his wife prepared to leave the property.
Liu told FBI agents that he had recently collected on a $30,000 loan, but he could not explain who owed him the money or why he loaned the money.
During a subsequent search of Liu's vehicle, agents found three envelopes containing 301 Supernotes hidden in a red shopping bag underneath clothes. Liu said that was the money paid back to him and he feared it might be counterfeit.
Agents also found $23,800 in genuine U.S. currency in Teresa Liu's make-up bag. Teresa Liu explained that the cash was from her winnings, although she could not explain when or where she won.
Chen Chiang Liu faces up to 25 years in prison on the two counts.
Contact reporter Adrienne Packer at email@example.com or 702-384-8710.