Guilty plea from co-founder of casino-cheating scheme - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Guilty plea from co-founder of casino-cheating scheme

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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.

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