WASHINGTON–Phuong Quoc Truong was sentenced Tuesday in San Diego for his role in a scheme by the “Tran Organization” to cheat casinos across the United States, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Karen P. Hewitt for the Southern District of California announced. In his plea agreement, Truong admitted that he and his co-conspirators unlawfully obtained up to $7 million during card cheats.
Truong was sentenced to 70 months in prison and three years of supervised release by U.S. District Court Judge John A. Houston in San Diego. The court also ordered him to forfeit $2,791,146 and to pay $5,753,416 in restitution, payable to several casinos. The court ordered the forfeiture of Truong’s interests in various assets, including two houses in the San Diego area, two properties in Vietnam, a 2001 Porsche Carrera, a Rolex presidential watch, and a diamond-encrusted pendant.
Truong pleaded guilty on April 2, 2008, to conspiracy to participate in the affairs of a racketeering enterprise. Truong 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 indictment related to card-cheating activity at Emerald Queen Casino, which is an Indian gaming establishment in Washington state.
In his plea agreement, Truong admitted that in approximately August 2002, he, with his co-conspirators, created a criminal enterprise defined in the indictment as the “Tran Organization,” based in San Diego and elsewhere, for the purpose of participating in gambling cheats at casinos across the United States.
A three-count indictment was returned May 22, 2007, and unsealed in the Southern District of California on May 24, 2007, charging Truong and 13 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 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.
There have been two subsequent indictments in connection with the Tran Organization’s alleged casino-cheating conspiracy, issued in 2008 and 2009, charging 19 additional defendants. The charges contained in the indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
According to the three 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 allegedly 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.
To date, 37 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, Leap Kong, Thang Viet Huynh, Don Man Duong, Dan Thich, Jimmy Ha, Eric Isbell, Brandon Pete Landry, James Root and Jesus Rodriguez. These defendants admitted to targeting, with the aid of co-conspirators, a combined total of approximately 27 casinos in the United States and Canada during the course of the conspiracy, including:
Monte Carlo Resort and Casino Palace Station Casino in Las Vegas; Sycuan Casino in El Cajon, Calif.; Cache Creek Indian Bingo and Casino in Brooks, Calif.; Trump 29 Casino in Coachella, Calif.;
Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage, Calif.; Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs, Calif.; Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif.; Barona Valley Ranch Casino and Resort in Lakeside, Calif.
Two other defendants, Ha Thuy Giang and Tammie Huynh, pleaded guilty to tax offenses stemming from the investigation, and Khai Hong Tran admitted to the offenses alleged in the 2007 U.S. indictment when he pleaded guilty to casino-cheating offenses in Canada.
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, Canada 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, Wash., 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). OCRS Trial Attorneys Joseph K. Wheatley and Robert S. Tully are prosecuting the case in San Diego. Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Tate London, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington, is prosecuting the case in Seattle relating to alleged cheating at the Emerald Queen Casino.