Gamble pays off in dismissal of wife’s charges in counterfeiting case

Maybe avid Las Vegas gambler Wilson Liu is on a roll.

He risked his wife’s freedom, and on Monday he came out a winner in U.S. District Court in the “Supernotes” counterfeiting trial when charges against her were dismissed.

It was hardly a secret in recent weeks around the courthouse that Min Li Liu, also known as Teresa Liu, was offered a pass in the far-reaching international counterfeiting case if her husband agreed to cooperate with the FBI and Secret Service in their investigation. Wilson Liu flatly refused to comply, and Teresa Liu remained silent.

Her poker face paid off. She won an acquittal because of a lack of evidence after defense attorney Carl Osborne’s motion was granted by U.S. District Judge James Mahan. Although it’s possible Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Vasquez is disappointed, it’s hard to imagine him or anyone who has watched the trial being surprised by the judge’s decision. Teresa Liu was a throw-in player from the start in the investigation, which focused on the alleged criminal activities of her husband and a shady international businessman named John Wu.

Supernotes, as they are called, are counterfeit $100 bills of exceedingly high quality. Believed by the government to come from a printing plant in North Korea, the notes are of such superb quality that even currency experts have been fooled by them.

We have learned from the investigation that the bogus bucks are capable of fooling the latest casino bill acceptors in Las Vegas. According to the indictment, Wilson Liu tested the bills’ quality during gambling forays to Caesars Palace and other casinos even after he was arrested on related counterfeiting charges in Los Angeles. (He managed to persuade authorities to allow him to travel from Southern California to Las Vegas on “business.”)

Although the FBI and Secret Service have tracked the Supernotes from North Korea, through China and into the United States, it was in Las Vegas that Teresa Liu enters the picture. Wilson brought her along on his trips. Casino surveillance captured the couple gambling with hundreds of thousands of dollars in suspect currency.

As late as July 30, 2007, the Lius were at Caesars Palace, where she gambled and, according to the indictment, he “passed scores of Supernotes into slot machines and, after relatively nominal play, cashed out the balances that he had accrued through this repetitive pattern and obtained genuine United States currency.”

When law enforcement converged on the couple in July, a search of their Cadillac Escalade turned up 301 Supernotes. Teresa Liu was driving at the time, the indictment states. Authorities also found counterfeit cash in her makeup bag and in red envelopes that were described as gifts from family members.

But just how much did she know about her husband’s apparent counterfeiting and money laundering program?

During opening statements in the trial, Osborne astutely portrayed Teresa Liu as a devoted mother of two and a very traditional Asian wife who brought her own money to the casino.

“She enjoys these outings and liked to play the slot machines,” Osborne said. “Her husband does not give her money for gambling.”

The defense attorney detailed a relationship in which she was “subservient to her husband” and, “He is the master of the home.”

That might sound backward to most readers, but it sure helped with Teresa Liu’s defense.

The government, meanwhile, described her as a willing participant whose close proximity to the tainted cash made it unreasonable to believe she was ignorant of its origins. She had “intent and knowledge,” Vasquez told the jury during his opening statement.

Problem is, neither case agents nor prosecutors had much to connect Teresa Liu to the operation.

Such is not the case with her husband. He was wired six ways from Sunday, worked by FBI undercover agent Robert Hamer and listened to by a jailhouse informant. His admissions on videotape, though at times difficult to understand because of his Asian accent, could prove devastating to any defense he’s trying to develop through attorney Theodore Cohen.

After all that, I am left with questions.

Why risk seeing your wife and the mother of your children be carted off to prison?

Why not take a deal?

Wilson Liu must be one gutsy gambler, but he’s down to his last roll of the dice.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at or call (702) 383-0295.

Man killed during road-rage incident
Las Vegas police are looking for two men involved in the shooting death of a man outside a 7-Eleven story at Bonanza Road and Maryland Parkway on Nov. 12, 2018. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System hosts Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ
The 4th Annual Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ is held in celebration of Veterans Day at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System Medical Center in North Las Vegas, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wildfires in Southern California
Wildfires hit Ventura County, Calif., on Nov. 9, 2018. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dedication of Nevada's Battle Born memorial
The state of Nevada on Friday dedicated its Battle Born memorial honoring 895 state residents who have died in America’s wars.
Las Vegas police and Sunrise Children's Hospital hope to prevent infant deaths
The Metropolitan Police Department and Sunrise Children's Hospital held a press conference to get the message out on preventable infant deaths attributed to "co-sleeping" and other unsafe sleeping habits. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
No serious injuries after car hits tree in south Las Vegas
One person reported minor injuries but wasn’t hospitalized after a Wednesday morning crash in the south valley.
Nellis Air Force Base keeps airmen fed
Nellis Air Force Bass airmen have delicious and healthy food items, and a variety of dining facilities to choose from. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Las Vegas police determined that a suspicious package found Monday morning at a central valley post office was not a threat.
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Police evacuated the area around the Garside Station post office early Monday morning near Oakey and Decatur boulevards.
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
Las Vegas family shares flu warning
Carlo and Brenda Occhipinti lost their son, Carlo Jr., or “Junior,” to the flu last year.
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Stadust Raceway
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on the TV show "Bonanza," and the actor's passion for auto racing at Stardust International Raceway in Las Vegas during the 1960s. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal.)
Project Neon 85 percent complete
On Wednesday morning Oct. 31, Interstate 15 northbound lane restrictions were removed opening up Exit 41 to Charleston Blvd. On Thursday Nov. 1, Interstate 15 southbound lane restrictions were removed. The new southbound off-ramp to Sahara Ave. and Highland Dr. also opened Thursday, November 1. With Project Neon 85% finished the flow of traffic on Interstate 15 has substantially diminished. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Girl killed after jumping from bridge onto 215 Beltway in Henderson
Eastbound lanes of the 215 Beltway are shut down by the Nevada Highway Patrol after a female juvenile jumped from the 215 overpass at Stephanie and was struck by a FedEx tractor trailer. Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Vegas88s
Kristallnacht story
An interview with 94-year-old Holocaust survivor Alexander Kuechel who survived seven concentration camps and didn’t leave Germany until after World War II was over. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1 dead in central Las Vegas crash
An early Wednesday morning crash left at least one person dead and another injured. The crash was reported just around 3 a.m. at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Swenson Street. At least two vehicles were involved in the crash, one of which caught fire. Debris was scattered across the intersection as police combed the area as they investigated the scene. Flamingo is blocked in both directions between Swenson and Cambridge Street. Northbound Swenson is blocked at the intersection.
Richard Knoeppel named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year
Richard Knoeppel, an architecture design instructor at the Advanced technologies Academy, named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mojave Poppy Bees
(Zach Portman/University of Minnesota Department of Entomology) Male Mojave poppy bees exhibit territorial fighting behavior. The Center for Biological Diversity wants the bee, found only in Clark County, to be added to the endangered species list.
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like