U.S. Department of Justice|
Debra Wong Yang
United States Attorney
Central District of California
United States Courthouse
312 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 1, 2005
For Information, Contact Public Affairs|
Thom Mrozek (213) 894-6947
Los Angeles, CA - The president of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters - a Long Beach, California-based organization that was formed to seize political control in the southeast Asian country - was arrested this morning on federal charges of conspiracy to kill in a foreign country.
Yasith Chhun, 48, was taken into custody without incident this morning at his residence in Long Beach. Chhun was arrested pursuant to two indictments returned yesterday by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles.
The first indictment charges Chhun with conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, conspiracy to damage or destroy property in a foreign country, and engaging in a military expedition against a nation with whom the United States is at peace.
The indictment outlines a scheme in which Chhun traveled to the Cambodia-Thailand border in August 1998 to meet with Cambodian military personnel who were opposed to the ruling party in Cambodia, the Cambodia People's Party, headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen. At this time, the Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF) was born. The opposition forces from Cambodia agreed to acquire weapons and Chhun agreed to raise funds for the violent overthrow of the Cambodian government.
The CFF eventually developed plans for "Operation Volcano," which would be a major assault on Cambodian government institutions and Prime Minister Sen, according to the indictment. On November 24, 2000, Chhun allegedly orchestrated the attack on the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, which included attacks on buildings housing the Ministry of Defense, the Council of Ministers and a military headquarters facility. As a result of the attack, several Cambodian Police Officers were wounded, and an undetermined number of Cambodian Freedom Fighter attackers were killed and wounded.
The three charges in this indictment carry a potential penalty of life without parole in federal prison.
A second indictment returned yesterday charges Chhun and his wife, Sras Pech, 39, with running a fraudulent tax-preparation business. Pech was also arrested this morning in relation to the tax charges. The 19-count indictment alleges conspiracy, two counts of filing a false return and 16 counts of aiding and assisting preparation of false returns.
Chhun and Pech operated CCC Professional Accounting Services in Long Beach, California. The couple allegedly recruited members of the Cambodian community who were on welfare or other forms of government assistance to file fraudulent tax returns to obtain a tax refund. As part of the scheme alleged in the indictment, Chhun and Pech told clients that the United States government was distributing money to the poor from its budget surplus and that by filing tax returns they would receive a tax refund.
Typically, Chhun and Pech would prepare Form 1040 U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns that falsely stated the clients earned between $8,000 and $10,000 as income for sewing work. Chhun and Pech would then attach fictitious Forms 1099 reflecting this income. The tax returns would request an Earned Income Credit refund of between $2,000 and $3,000 per return.
Chhun faces a sentence of up to 29 years in prison in relation to the tax case. Pech could be sentenced to as much as 35 years in prison in this case.
The charges contained in an indictment are only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty in a court of law.
Chhun and Pech are scheduled to make their initial court appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles.
The investigation was conducted by the Long Beach Joint Terrorism Task Force of the FBI, and IRS-Criminal Investigation.
Release No. 05-079
Return to the 2005 Press Release Index
Return to the Home Page