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Woman Sentenced To Three Years in Prison For Cheating Emerald Queen, Other Casinos

Van Thu Tran, 47, was also ordered to pay almost $5.8 million in restitution to the casinos for her role in the "false shuffle" scheme that she and her counterparts conducted, according to the Department of Justice.

-From the U.S. Department of Justice

Van Thu Tran was sentenced today in San Diego to 36 months in prison for her role in a scheme to cheat casinos across the country out of millions of dollars, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy for the Southern District of California.

In addition to her prison sentence, Van Thu Tran, 47, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John A. Houston in the Southern District of California to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $5,753,416 in restitution, payable to several casinos. The court ordered the forfeiture of her interests in various assets, including jewelry and bank accounts.

Van Thu Tran entered her guilty plea in San Diego on Jan. 14, 2011.

In her plea agreement, Van Thu Tran admitted that in approximately August 2002, she, along with co-conspirators Phuong Quoc Truong, Tai Khiem Tran and others, created a criminal enterprise defined as the Tran Organization, based in San Diego and elsewhere, for the purpose of participating in gambling cheats at casinos across the United States. In her plea agreement, Van Thu Tran also admitted that she and her co-conspirators unlawfully obtained up to $7 million during card cheats.

The investigation of the Tran Organization led to the filing of three separate indictments in 2007, 2008 and 2009.  A three-count indictment was returned in San Diego on May 22, 2007, and unsealed on May 24, 2007, which charged Van Thu Tran 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.

According to court documents, the defendants and others executed a “false shuffle” cheating scheme at casinos in the United States and Canada during blackjack and mini-baccarat games. Court documents also show 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. Court documents also show 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 repeatedly won thousands of dollars during card games, including winning several hundred thousand dollars on one occasion.

Court documents also show 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, 42 defendants have pleaded guilty to charges relating to the casino-cheating conspiracy: Van Thu Tran, 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, Jesus Rodriguez, Jason Cavin, Nedra Fay Landry, Connie Holmes and Geraldo Montaz.  These defendants admitted to targeting, with the aid of co-conspirators, a combined total of approximately 29 casinos in the United States and Canada during the course of the conspiracy:

1) Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi, Miss.;
2) Casino Rama, in Orillia, Ontario, Canada;
3) Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Conn.;
4) Gold Strike Casino in Tunica, Miss.;
5) Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City, La.;
6) Horseshoe Casino and Hotel in Tunica, Miss.;
7) Isle of Capri Casino in Westlake, La.;
8) Majestic Star Casino in Gary, Ind.;
9) Mohegan Sun Resort Casino in Uncasville, Conn.;
10) Palace Station Casino in Las Vegas;
11) Resorts East Chicago Hotel and Casino in East Chicago, Ind.;
12) Sycuan Casino in El Cajon, Calif.
13) Cache Creek Indian Bingo and Casino in Brooks, Calif.;
14) Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Wash.;
15) Imperial Palace Casino in Biloxi;
16) Argosy Casino in Baton Rouge, La.;
17) Trump 29 Casino in Coachella, Calif.;
18) Isle of Capri Casino in Bossier City;
19) Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage, Calif.;
20) Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs, Calif.;
21) Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif.;
22) L'Auberge du Lac Casino in Lake Charles, La.;
23) Nooksack River Casino in Deming, Wash.;
24) Barona Valley Ranch Casino and Resort in Lakeside, Calif.;
25) Caesars Indiana Hotel and Casino in Elizabeth, Ind.;
26) Monte Carlo Resort and Casino in Las Vegas;
27) Harrah’s Casino in Lake Charles;
28) Golden Moon Casino in Choctaw, Miss.; and
29) Viejas Casino in Alpine, 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 a 2007 U.S. indictment when he pleaded guilty to casino-cheating offenses in Canada.

On Dec. 15, 2010, defendant Mike Waseleski, a former casino card dealer, was found guilty by a federal jury in San Diego for his role in the Tran Organization’s cheating scheme to steal approximately $1.5 million from Resorts East Chicago Casino.

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 Provincial Police; the National Indian Gaming Commission; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California; 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 case is being prosecuted in San Diego by Criminal Division Organized Crime and Gang Section Trial Attorneys Joseph K. Wheatley and Robert S. Tully.

Dan September 30, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Was it a rug?
John September 30, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Just like religion, wouldn t you say Doug?
Mike Barnett September 30, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Sounds to me that there are a lot of bad losers on this blog. Nobody "makes" you gamble, and nobody tells you that you’re actually going to win anything. If you think that the casinos are crooked, then why would you want to gamble there anyway? People sure don't like to take responsibility for their own actions; sounds like an Obama conspiracy to me!
David September 30, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Like some people can't see beyond their noses sometimes when they get scammed, like that Madoff story, 'as in Madeoff with your money'.
Karin Jensen September 30, 2012 at 05:17 PM
@BeReal, so, since murder was considered entertainment at one time by some sick people it is a valid argument for prohibition of other non-violent entertainments today. The funniest part of this discussion is that you think these are rational comments. I think that most of us get it-- you are a rabid antigambling fanatic that will use any argument to support yourself no matter how ridiculous. I no longer need to argue for moderation on this thread. You will drive most people to moderation by your extremism, I thank you for that.
Neil September 30, 2012 at 05:21 PM
People are always going to find a way to gamble. Why send the money to off shore casinos for on-line betting and poker? There is a huge Hardrock Indian casino 40 miles from my house. They have a suncruz casino boat in my city that sales 9 miles out into the gulf where you can gamble. You can`t stop gambling so you might as well legalize it and tax it. Poker is an industry. It creates jobs and business.
Handsomish September 30, 2012 at 06:05 PM
You do realize that this number of 44 percent of gamblers steal is completely wrong. This survey was of members of Gamblers Anonymous. That group is largely made up of people with serious gambling addiction. And a large part of their membership is mandatory as a part of their criminal sentencing. So the sampled group does not represent the betting public as a whole. It is seriously skewed. Any odds maker / statistician would be able to tell you that.
sandra dawson September 30, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Yes they were pretty smart to scam those casinos. But, alas, they cheated. Oh what a terrible criime. The casinos cheat gamblers everyday. I personally don't gamble; but please you have to admit to the genius in their plans.
WG Levins September 30, 2012 at 06:32 PM
OK..so what about the non cheating gamblers at those casinos who were cheated? Where is their remuneration? They were caught in the same scam as the casino. I regularly play at the IP in Biloxi....
Ray September 30, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Immediate pardon for the suspect for all the Indian casinos that claim they were 'victims', let the Indians claim 'soverign nation' and prosecute themsleves.
Ronald Dillard September 30, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Casinos are just like Bluegreen timeshares they all steal from the poor to make thimselves rich
Ronald Dillard September 30, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Reply Pending Approval Ronald Dillard 12:15 pm on Sunday, September 30, 2012 Casinos are just like Bluegreen timeshares they all steal from the poor to make thimselves rich
ted September 30, 2012 at 07:41 PM
I don't really understand all the comments about the casinos cheating the gamblers? I know the odds when I sit down at a blackjack table yet it is my choice to play or not. Sounds like a bunch of people not willing to take responsibility for their own actions to me.
Handsomish September 30, 2012 at 07:41 PM
You do realize that those are not Chinese names? They are far more typical of Vietnamese.
Joe September 30, 2012 at 08:42 PM
I wonder how many of the suspects are American citizens and how many are foreign nationals? Those who are not citizens may and should be eligible for deportation proceedings when they finish their sentences. We already have enough dishonest people in our country who are citizens. We can't do anything about that except incarcerate them when they break the law. But at least we can deport the non-citizens who already have their own countries so they can return there and break their own laws rather than come here and prey on us.
nowatta September 30, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Why not have laws to keep the casinos from cheating people who don't know what is going on! Is that it? We aren't allowed to know what is going on, wonder in there and let them rip us off? Anyone with any sense of fairness, unlike ted, would realize that casinos exist because people don't know how they are being scammed when they go in and hope to win a few dollars to buy dinner with or, just enjoy themselves yet, when someone learns how to defeat it...it's cheating? HELLO? That is insane!
nowatta September 30, 2012 at 09:33 PM
you got that right Ron. If you have any clue as to what is going on they say it's cheating! Just who is cheating? They program their machines to scam people. The machines put off subliminal messages in the past to hypnotize people into thinking they can 'get their money back' 'keep playing you will win' and that is fraud! The card schemes are more likely to pay I hear but I don't even think of trying the way I have seen them cheat people out of their lives and everything they have. They let you win just enough to make people think they can keep winning so they return to try only to loose all they won and everything else they own if possible. That is cruel and inhuman to allow this cheating. Machines are even worse with the games in them. I have seen people win and in a deep trance play it back, still pushing the button even after it's ALL GONE, totally unaware that they played every penny they have into that rip off scam. Make laws to stop the cheating. Indian casinos are not exception, they are worse and big lawyers help them with loop holes to steal from people.
nowatta September 30, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Why not have laws to keep the casinos from cheating people who don't know what is going on??? Is that it? We aren't allowed to know what is going on, wonder in there and let them rip us off? Anyone with any sense of fairness, unlike ted, would realize that casinos exist because people don't know how they are being scammed when they go in and hope to win a few dollars to buy dinner with or, just enjoy themselves yet, when someone learns how to defeat it...it's cheating? HELLO? That is insane!
Bob September 30, 2012 at 09:41 PM
I learned the odds on the major games and what options an honest dealer has in dealing on various games especially in Nevada. once I learned that I made money most nights but not always. There was no cheating by the casino but they definitely had the odds on their side. The best i could do on an honest table is one & a half to one against me. Gambling is an addiction like anything else but most people do not want to treat it like a job and learn the odds and tricks/options that are legal on the customer side of the table. They want the risk, the bet by feeling than common sense and they become the losers. The casinos are going to recoup those loses by passing the expenses/loses along to the consumer just like any other company. Why do you think you see price hikes. Consumer option is just not do it or buy it if it is a product. theft and fraud is the same whether it is against the consumer or the company. These people broke federal/state laws not casino rules and casinos do not have laws. Your law makers passed these laws.
127 druse September 30, 2012 at 09:47 PM
AGREE, AGREE, AGREE!! And well said.
Bob September 30, 2012 at 09:49 PM
As for foreign nationals ask California how much is lost to Medi-cal and Medi-care thanks to false billing by doctors, both domestic and foreign. where the money is sent out of country before they are caught. In almost any business where an individual can make unchecked billings on state and federal agencies you are going to find plenty of foreign nationals billing fast and hard and then going home once they have scored a few million and transferred it out of country. casinos are just the latest targets of foreign schemes.
127 druse September 30, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Acutally, the "wealth" do invest in casinos. Example, MGM Corp and anyone who owns shares of stocks in MGM Corp are invested in quite a few casinos .
RON VILLEMAIRE September 30, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Obviously this was primarily a Vietnamese criminal team wreaking havoc amoungst the Casino industry. Wasn't bad enough they killed over 53,000 of us in the war and maimed well over 100,000 more but we had to let these losers into our country so they could come and steal from us to? Even our so-called South Vietnamese "allies" stole Americans blind while we were over there trying to protect them. They also were quite content on selling raw Heroin and other drugs to our GI's which cause too many lost lives to count. None of these people should ever have been permitted to enter this country. Put every single one of them in prison and wwhen their time is up EXTRADITE them back to their own damn country or send them to Hong Kong and let them go and try and steal from the Chinese Casinos.
gene October 01, 2012 at 12:02 AM
Alright, enter a grocery store choose chips and soda over and apple and water; department store choose "top named brands" over basic items; meet friends at a bar choose alcohol beverage over non-alcohol beverage; getting the picture? Freedom of choice. Enter the casino, don't enter the casino...No one is forcing anyone to gamble... time to take responsibilities for your own choices. Don't get upset because someone comes up with a business idea. Gambling is a form of entertainment for most who are responsible for their choices. These people were employees of casinos. It is a cfrime to steal from an employer...period. Casinos don't steal from people, people pay for entertainment with the hope that they win...there was a real crime here and a violation....
Richard October 01, 2012 at 04:19 AM
With casino city's after another opeing up you were never going to have the quality of talented dealers/floor supers or pit bosses like you had in vegas or A.C., where you could be positioned for years learning, there will always be cheats but the perforation of casinos I'm surprized it hasn't happen more, this was done in baccarat,bj. the false shuffle and slug was done in front of dealers and supervisors...ok the dealers were in on it and lets say the supervisors too, that's why you should always have people in the camera room that have dealt the game at one time and for the people that don't want you to cry for the casino, hey fool they put people to work if they keep getting ripped off guess what happens, dah!!!
Mark Darby October 01, 2012 at 06:22 AM
sounds like you all play the victim. Gambling is a choice and when you lose do not cry and make excuses and bkame others. You sound like our loser in chief
IQ above stupid October 02, 2012 at 01:53 AM
According to a Pastor the Asians have no ethics. Capitalism is gambling and cheating, Such a system of economics only works an an ethical society such as a Chritian one. The poorest of the poor Asians have had enough of working under bosses who cheat so they chose Mao and communism. So we rescue from the communists the cheaters and the capitalists. Religion and ethics are a choice, whereas race is not. So how many Christians are in jail? Or are the jails full of atheists with low IQ watching cartoons on the TV??
kathy October 02, 2012 at 01:58 AM
they also give alot of that money to the states for taxes. besides that, they are americans, the first ones.
Chuck daMan October 02, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Doesn't surprise me you're ignorant, possibly racist, and not too bright.
larry smith October 03, 2012 at 12:30 AM
For all you idiots that think the casinos cheat so it is ok to cheat them. The casinos do not cheat, they don't need to. they play the odds and the odds favor the house. Any gambler knows this going in. Just because the house has better odds, doesn't mean that you are justified trying to cheat them.

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