City Man Convicted of Drug, Gun Offenses for Role in Large-Scale Drug Trafficking Organization Operating in Port Richmond Section of Philadelphia
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that Jason Rivera, 38, of Brooklyn, New York was sentenced to life in prison today for his role in the kidnapping, extortion, and murder of two Philadelphia drug dealers after a jury found Rivera guilty on all counts following a trial in October 2022.
In the summer of 2014, defendant Jason Rivera and two associates, John Dao and Trung Lu, were recruited by members of the “Born To Kill” street gang to forcibly collect money from three marijuana dealers who had failed to pay a substantial drug debt.
The victims in this case, brothers Vu and Viet Huynh, and their friend Tan Voong, were drug dealers from the Philadelphia area who sold large quantities of marijuana. Their friend, Tam Le, introduced the Huynh brothers to a gangster from New York, Lam Trieu. Le and Trieu were members of a street gang called Born to Kill ("BTK"). Lam Trieu, in turn, arranged for his supplier in California, known by his nickname "Fat Man," to supply large quantities of marijuana to the Huynh brothers. Allegedly, the Huynh brothers owed Trieu and “Fat Man” more than $30,000, and Voong owed “Fat Man” more than $300,000. Though “Fat Man” and Trieu were their suppliers, the victims did not pay them all the money they were owed.
"Fat Man" pressed Lam Trieu to collect the money which he was owed. When Tam Le either could not or would not collect the money, Lam Trieu recruited three drug trafficking associates, John Dao, Trung Lu, and Jason Rivera to get the money from the Huynh brothers and Voong. Dao, Lu, and Rivera understood that they would use force and threats of force to collect the debt owed for the sale of marijuana. In exchange, Lam Trieu promised to pay Dao, Lu, and Rivera a percentage of the money recovered.
A few days before the murders, Dao, Lu, and Rivera traveled to Philadelphia where they met with Tam Le and Minh Nguyen. Dao, Lu, and Rivera then unsuccessfully attempted to locate the victims to force them to pay their drug debts.
Finally, on August 26, 2014, Tam Le, a member of BTK, lured the victims to his home in southwest Philadelphia, where Rivera, Dao, and Lu assaulted the victims and restrained them with duct tape and zip ties. Rivera searched Voong’s car and confiscated $40,000 in U.S. currency. At this point, Dao, Lu, and Rivera believed that their work was completed. LU gave some of the money to Tam Le. Dao and Lu intended to steal the victims' luxury vehicles which were parked outside and return to New York. However, Tam Le wanted to murder the victims fearing that the victims would return to his home to seek revenge if they remained alive. When Tam Le and Minh Nguyen started putting buckets of roofing cement into a van, Dao and Lu understood that Tam Le intended to kill the victims. Dao, Lu, and Rivera believed that Tam Le was a BTK "brother" of Lam Trieu, which made him the on-scene commander. Dao, Lu, and Rivera went along with Tam Le's plan.
They then transported the three victims to the Schuylkill River, weighed down their bodies, stabbed them, and dumped all three into the river. Vu Huynh and Viet Huynh died in the river, but Tan Voong miraculously managed to crawl out of the river and flag down a passing motorist on Kelly Drive for assistance. Upon their return to New York, Rivera, Dao, and Trieu were each paid several thousand dollars each using the money they took from the victims.
In addition to this case, five defendants were federally indicted for this crime. John Dao, Lam Trieu, and Minh Nguyen pleaded guilty for their respective roles in these offenses and have all been sentenced by the Court. "Fat Man" pleaded guilty to a drug trafficking offense in the Southern District of New York. Tam Le was convicted of murder and related offenses after a trial in Philadelphia County and sentenced to death. Another defendant, Hai Nguyen, pleaded guilty to making statements to the FBI concerning his efforts to assist Tam Le flee after the murders. Trung Lu is a fugitive who apparently resides in Vietnam. The FBI is offering of $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of Trung Lu.
“After the initial investigation and arrests were made in this case which resulted in state charges for two individuals involved with these murders and attempted murder, the trail on the other individuals who helped them went nearly cold,” said U.S. Attorney Romero. “But thanks to the persistent efforts and dogged determination of the FBI and other law enforcement partners, our Office was able to charge these remaining individuals, get them off the streets, and bring them to justice for their crimes.”
“Stopping crimes as shockingly violent as this one is a top priority of our Office,” said U.S. Attorney Romero. “Thanks to the partnership of the FBI and Philadelphia Police Department, we were able to bring Rivera to justice for his crimes.”
“The brutality of the crimes committed by Rivera and his co-conspirators is stunning,” said Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “I’d like to commend FBI Philadelphia’s Organized Crime Task Force for their years of hard work to help bring these men to justice. However, our work is not done. So long as Trung Lu, also charged in connection with these crimes, remains at large, we will not stop in our efforts to hold him accountable.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the Philadelphia Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert J. Livermore.