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Federal Jury Convicts Port Arthur Man for Role in Kidnapping and Carjacking Scheme
BEAUMONT, Texas – A 33-year-old Port Arthur, Texas man has been convicted in a carjacking case as a result of Operation Time Machine in the Eastern District of Texas announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today.
Luan Van Nguyen, aka, Kevin Nguyen, was found guilty by a jury on Aug. 2, 2012, of carjacking, conspiracy to commit carjacking, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime. The jury deliberated for 59 minutes following a four day trial before U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield.
According to information presented in court, from July 16, 2010 to Aug. 6, 2010, Nguyen conspired with two fellow Port Arthur men, Patrick Allen Chaney and Rigoberto Gaytan Valenzia, to kidnap a 24-year-old Port Arthur man and hold him for ransom. Chaney and Valenzia had both previously performed construction work for Nguyen, who was a construction contractor. Nguyen approached Chaney and Valenzia and asked them to help kidnap the victim and promised to share a portion of the ransom proceeds, which was to be paid by the victim's family. Prior to the kidnapping, Chaney, Valenzia, and Nguyen traveled together on one or more occasions to conduct surveillance on the victim and the victim's family. Nguyen was a friend of the victim’s family and knew that the victim had a job doing computer repair work. Nguyen’s plan was to lure the victim to an vacant house in Port Arthur by having Chaney make a fictitious service call for computer repair. On Aug. 5, 2010, at approximately 6:30 p.m., Chaney, using the alias "Gary Underwood," called the victim on his cell phone and asked the victim to fix a computer.
On Aug. 6, 2010, from approximately 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., Chaney, using the same alias, "Gary Underwood," made multiple phone calls to the victim's cell phone and the victim’s employer, specifically requesting that the victim be sent to do the computer repair. Chaney instructed the victim to meet him at 3748 Proctor Street in Port Arthur, in order to pick up the computer. At approximately 3:00 p.m., Chaney met the victim at 3748 Proctor Street and was able to lure him into the house. Upon entering the house, Valenzia confronted the victim with a short-barreled shotgun and told the victim to lay face down on the floor and not to move or else he would shoot the victim. Chaney proceeded to blind-fold the victim and bound the victim's hands with duct tape. Valenzia and Chaney then put the victim into Valenzia’s van, bound his feet with duct tape, and then removed the victim’s car keys and cell phone. Chaney took the victim's car which was parked in the driveway. Nguyen drove up to the residence and instructed Chaney to follow Nguyen in the victim's vehicle while Valenzia transported the victim. Chaney and Nguyen then abandoned the victim’s vehicle behind a business on 8th Street and 9th Avenue in order to conceal the location of the kidnaping from law enforcement.
Valenzia took a large knife and placed it against the victim's neck and leg, and told the victim that he would cut him if he moved. Valenzia left the residence in his van with the victim still bound in the back and planned to take the victim back to his apartment. While in route, the victim was able to maneuver to the front of the vehicle and lodge himself against Valenzia and the inside wall of the van. Valenzia choked the victim with his hands in order to try and regain control over him. After a brief struggle, Valenzia stopped the vehicle and opened the driver's side door in order to free himself. Once the door was opened, the victim fell out of the vehicle, managed to free one of his legs, and was able to run to a nearby business for help. A passing motorist observed the victim escaping from the vehicle and called Port Arthur Police. Valenzia left the scene and then called Nguyen on his cell phone and informed him that the victim had escaped. Valenzia attempted to flee in the van, but was later apprehended by Port Arthur Police officers. Port Arthur Police recovered the shotgun used in the kidnapping and carjacking. Chaney voluntarily surrendered to Port Arthur Police on Aug. 13, 2010. A federal grand jury returned an indictment on Sep. 8, 2010, charging Valenzia, Nguyen, and Chaney with federal violations.
The evidence at trial showed that Nguyen fled Port Arthur on Aug. 16, 2010 after he learned federal investigators were investigating him for his role in the kidnaping and carjacking. He was at large for over a year, and was eventually arrested in Houston, Texas on Dec. 14, 2011.
Phone records showed that Nguyen repeatedly called Chaney and Valenzia on the day of the kidnaping and carjacking, and instructed them on how to carry out the crime.
This case was prosecuted as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods' Operation Time Machine program in partnership with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office. Operation Time Machine is aimed at reducing gun and gang violence, deterring illegal possession of guns, ammunition and body armor, and improving the safety of residents in Port Arthur, Texas. Participants in the initiative include community members and organizations as well as federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
Nguyen faces up to 25 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not been set.
Chaney pleaded guilty to carjacking and was sentenced on Aug. 9, 2011, to 97 months in federal prison. Valenzia pleaded guilty to carjacking and was sentenced on Apr. 20, 2011 to 116 months in federal prison. Chaney and Valenzia were also convicted of state charges for aggravated kidnapping and were both sentenced to 5 years in the Texas Department of Corrections. Nguyen still faces state charges.
This case was investigated by the Port Arthur Police Department and the ATF and prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Baylor Wortham.