AROUND MISSISSIPPI — Phuong Quoc Truong has been sentenced in San Diego for his role in a scheme by the “Tran Organization” to cheat casinos across the United States, including four casinos in Mississippi, 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. Included among the 27 casinos that Truoung bilked are the Beau Rivage Casino and Imperial Palace Casino in Biloxi and the Horseshoe Casino and Hotel and Gold Strike Casino in Tunica.
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 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 Aug. 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 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.