The United States Department of Justice Department of Justice Seal The United States Department of Justice
Search The Site
 
 
Justice News Banner
Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, July 13, 2009
Four Members of Casino-Cheating Criminal Enterprise Sentenced for Targeting Casinos in the United States and Canada

George Michael Lee, Duc Cong Nguyen, Hop Nguyen and Tien Duc Vu were sentenced today in San Diego for their roles in a scheme by the "Tran Organization" to cheat casinos across the United States and Canada. Duc Cong Nguyen and Vu admitted that they and their co-conspirators unlawfully obtained up to $2.5 million during card cheats.

A three-count indictment was returned May 22, 2007, and unsealed in the Southern District of California on May 24, 2007, charging Lee, Vu and 12 others each with one count of conspiracy to participate in the affairs of a racketeering enterprise; one count of conspiracy to commit several offenses against the United States, including conspiracy to steal money and other property from Indian tribal casinos; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The indictment also charged five separate individuals, including Duc Cong Nguyen, each with one count of conspiracy to commit several offenses against the United States, including conspiracy to steal money and other property from Indian tribal casinos; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Lee was sentenced to 36 months in prison and three years of supervised release by District Judge John A. Houston in San Diego. The court also ordered forfeiture in the amount of $731,645; and ordered restitution in the amount of $2,208,019, payable to several casinos. Lee pleaded guilty on Dec. 13, 2007, to conspiracy to participate in the affairs of a racketeering enterprise. Lee was also sentenced on two separate indictments to which he pleaded guilty after agreeing to transfer the charges to San Diego from the Western District of Washington. The two indictments related to card-cheating activity at Emerald Queen Casino and Nooksack River Casino, which are Indian gaming establishments in Washington state.

Duc Cong Nguyen was sentenced to one year and one day in prison and three years of supervised release by Judge Houston. The court also ordered restitution in the amount of $945,055, payable to several casinos. Duc Cong Nguyen pleaded guilty on Aug. 10, 2007, to conspiracy to commit several offenses against the United States, including conspiracy to steal money and other property from Indian tribal casinos.

Vu was sentenced by Judge Houston to one year and one day in prison and three years of supervised release. The court also ordered forfeiture in the amount of $53,500; and ordered restitution in the amount of $2,164,632, payable to several casinos. Vu pleaded guilty on Aug. 8, 2008, to conspiracy to participate in the affairs of a racketeering enterprise. Vu was also sentenced on a separate indictment to which he pleaded guilty after agreeing to transfer the charges to San Diego from the Western District of Washington. The transferred indictment related to card-cheating activity at Nooksack River Casino, which is an Indian gaming establishment in Washington state.

Hop Nguyen, who waived indictment and pleaded guilty on Jan. 27, 2009, to filing a false income tax return, was sentenced to one year of supervised release by District Judge William Q. Hayes in San Diego. The court also ordered restitution in the amount of $131,238, payable to several casinos. Hop Nguyen’s plea agreement contained admissions of casino-cheating activities on behalf of the Tran Organization at casinos in the United States and Canada.

A second indictment has alleged that 11 additional defendants conspired to commit offenses on behalf of the Tran Organization. A one-count indictment, unsealed in the Southern District of California on Sept. 11, 2008, charged Bryan Arce; Don Man Duong; Hogan Ho; Thang Viet Huynh; Outtama Keovongsa; Leap Kong, aka Lanida Kong; Qua Le; Khunsela Prom, aka Danny Prom; James Root; Darrell Saicocie; and Dan Thich each with one count of conspiracy to commit several offenses against the United States, including conspiracy to steal money and other property from Indian tribal casinos, and conspiracy to travel in interstate and foreign commerce in aid of racketeering.

According to the two indictments, the defendants and others executed a "false shuffle" cheating scheme at casinos in the United States and Canada during blackjack and mini-baccarat games. The indictments allege that members of the criminal organization bribed casino card dealers and supervisors to perform false shuffles during card games, thereby creating "slugs" or groups of unshuffled cards. The indictments also allege that after tracking the order of cards dealt in a card game, a member of the organization would signal to the card dealer to perform a "false shuffle," and members of the group would then bet on the known order of cards when the slug appeared on the table. By doing so, members of the conspiracy repeatedly won thousands of dollars during card games, including winning several hundred thousand dollars on one occasion.

The indictments also allege that the members of the organization used sophisticated mechanisms for tracking the order of cards during games, including hidden transmitter devices and specially created software that would predict the order in which cards would reappear during blackjack games.

An indictment is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

To date, 29 defendants have pleaded guilty to charges relating to the casino-cheating conspiracy, including: Phuong Quoc Truong; Tai Khiem Tran; Anh Phuong Tran; Phat Ngoc Tran; Martin Lee Aronson; Liem Thanh Lam; George Michael Lee; Tien Duc Vu; Son Hong Johnson; Barry Wellford; John Tran; Willy Tran; Tuan Mong Le; Duc Cong Nguyen; Han Truong Nguyen; Roderick Vang Thor; Sisouvanh Mounlasy; Navin Nith; Renee Cuc Quang; Ui Suk Weller; Phally Ly; Khunsela Prom; Hop Nguyen; Hogan Ho; Darrell Saicocie; Bryan Arce; Qua Le; Outtama Keovongsa; and Leap Kong. These defendants admitted to targeting, with the aid of co-conspirators, a combined total of approximately 25 casinos during the course of the conspiracy, including:

1) Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi, Miss.;

2) Casino Rama, in Orillia Ontario, Canada;

3) Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Conn.;

4) Gold Strike Casino in Tunica, Miss.;

5) Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City, La.;

6) Horseshoe Casino and Hotel in Tunica, Miss.;

7) Isle of Capri Casino in Westlake, La.;

8) Majestic Star Casino in Gary, Ind.;

9) Mohegan Sun Resort Casino in Uncasville, Conn.;

10) Palace Station Casino in Las Vegas;

11) Resorts East Chicago Hotel and Casino in East Chicago, Ind.;

12) Sycuan Casino in El Cajon, Calif.

13) Cache Creek Indian Bingo and Casino in Brooks, Calif.;

14) Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Wash.;

15) Imperial Palace Casino in Biloxi;

16) Argosy Casino in Baton Rouge, La.;

17) Trump 29 Casino in Coachella, Calif.;

18) Isle of Capri Casino in Bossier City;

19) Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage, Calif.;

20) Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs, Calif.;

21) Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif.;

22) L'Auberge du Lac Casino in Lake Charles, La.;

23) Nooksack River Casino in Deming, Wash.;

24) Barona Valley Ranch Casino and Resort in Lakeside, Calif.; and

25) Caesars Indiana Hotel and Casino in Elizabeth, Ind.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s San Diego Field Office; the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation; the San Diego Sheriff’s Department; and the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Gambling Control. The investigation has received assistance from federal, state, tribal and foreign authorities, including: the Ontario Provincial Police; the National Indian Gaming Commission; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington; FBI Resident Agencies in Gulfport, Miss., Tacoma, and Toledo, Ohio; the Indiana State Police; the Rumsey Rancheria Tribal Gaming Agency; the Sycuan Gaming Commission; the Barona Gaming Commission; the Mississippi Gaming Commission; and the Washington State Gambling Commission.

The prosecution of the case is led by the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section (OCRS). Department of Justice Trial Attorneys Joseph K. Wheatley, Robert S. Tully and Gavin A. Corn are prosecuting the case in San Diego.

09-680
Criminal Division
Justice.gov en espanol Office of the United States Attorneys
Stay Connected YouTube Twitter Facebook Sign Up for E-Mail Updates Subscribe to News Feeds