SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The co-founder of a criminal enterprise that cheated casinos across the country out of millions of dollars pleaded guilty in San Diego federal court Friday to conspiracy charges.
Van Thu Tran, 45, faces a maximum 20-year prison term and $250,000 fine when she is sentenced April 11 by U.S. District Judge John Houston.
An indictment returned in 2007 charged her and 13 others with one count each of conspiracy to participate in the affairs of a racketeering enterprise, conspiracy to commit to steal money and other property from Indian tribal casinos and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Of the two dozen-plus casinos victimized by the defendants, three were in San Diego County: Sycuan Casino in El Cajon, Barona Valley Ranch Casino and Resort in Lakeside and Viejas Casino in Alpine.
In her plea agreement, Van Thu Tran admitted that about August 2002, she, along with co-conspirators Phuong Quoc Trong, Tai Khiem Tran and others, created the Tran Organization, based in San Diego and elsewhere, so they could cheat casinos across the United States.
She also admitted that she and her co-conspirators unlawfully obtained up to $7 million during card cheats, according to her plea agreement.
"Today's guilty plea by the co-founder of the Tran Organization marks the final chapter for a group that targeted as many as 29 casinos in the United States and Canada in their card cheating scheme," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer.
"Using false shuffles, specifically developed computer programs, concealed microphones and transmitters, and a web of co-conspirators, Van Thu Tran and her co-conspirators obtained up to $7 million during card cheats. With the exception of two fugitives, every member of the organization has now been convicted."
To date, 42 defendants have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the casino-cheating conspiracy, according to authorities.
National City police were responding to a shooting scene with "multiple victims'' Saturday morning, but it was unclear if there were any fatalities, according to officials.
Two Subway sandwich shops in San Diego were robbed at gunpoint Friday, possibly by the same masked thief, authorities reported.
Home surveillance cameras captured two women stealing mail right out people’s mailboxes in a Rancho Penasquitos neighborhood this week.
Short-term lodging service Airbnb on Friday released a report about the $420 million impact it has on San Diego’s economy.
Extremely hot weather in San Diego County's deserts is expected to persist Friday through early next week and temperatures in other inland areas will spike on Sunday.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of San Diego's most treasured attractions - SeaWorld's Bayside Skyride. Since 1967, more than 20 million guests have soared above Mission Bay on its iconic gondolas.
Investigators working to identify and track down a man who fatally assaulted a well-liked transient in downtown Ocean Beach released surveillance-camera footage of the suspected killer Friday.
A woman who stole $565,000 from the Escondido concrete business where she worked and gambled the money away at local casinos was sentenced Friday to six years in state prison.
San Diego civic and business leaders are scheduled to travel to Vancouver next week to strengthen trade ties with Canada.