News and Press Releases

Woman Conspired to use “False Shuffle” to Steal Money From Emerald Queen Casino

March 25, 2008

THONGSOK SOVAN, 41, of Tacoma, Washington, pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to Conspiracy to Steal Funds from a Tribal Gaming Facility. SOVAN faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release when sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton on June 13, 2008.

SOVON was indicted by a Seattle grand jury in February 2006, in connection with a 2003 scheme to steal more than $1 million from the Emerald Queen Casino near Fife, Washington. According to the indictment, the defendants and others executed a “false shuffle” cheating scheme at the Emerald Queen Casino during mini-baccarat games. The indictment alleged that members of the criminal organization bribed casino card dealers such as SOVAN to perform false shuffles during card games, thereby creating “slugs” of un-shuffled cards. Members of the group would then bet on the known order of cards when the slug of cards appeared on the table. The 12 count indictment charged conspiracy, Theft of Funds from a Gaming Establishment on Indian Lands, and Interstate Transportation of Stolen Property. The indictment was unsealed in May 2007.

Some of the defendants in the case involving cheating at the Emerald Queen, are also named in an indictment returned in the Southern District of California. According to the indictment, from in or about March 2002, through the date of the indictment, the defendants formed and participated in a racketeering enterprise by cheating at gambling at casinos across the United States. The indictment lists 18 casinos that were allegedly targeted by members of the conspiracy, including 10 casinos that are owned and operated by Indian tribes.

In her plea agreement SOVAN admits that between April 2003, and October 2003, she was paid $1,000 for each day that she performed at least two false shuffles, so that other conspirators could win big on mini-baccarat at the Emerald Queen Casino. SOVAN admits to five specific days in September and October 2003, when she performed the false shuffle for the cheat team. The plea agreement indicates that those days are just a limited sample of a number of days when SOVAN assisted the cheat team.

In the Western District of Washington the case was investigated by the FBI and the Washington State Gambling Commission, with assistance from the Puyallup Tribal Gaming Agency. In California, the case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s San Diego Field Office, the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, and the California Department of Justice’s Division of Gambling Control.

In the Western District of Washington the case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney J. Tate London.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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