Mastermind sentenced in tribal casino scheme

Phuong Quoc Truong was part of the 'Tran Organization,' a card counting ring that bilked 27 Indian tribal casinos out of millions over eight years.

A San Diego man was sentenced to 70 months in prison Monday after pleading guilty to participating in a multiyear racketeering plot to defraud 27 Indian tribal casinos of millions of dollars by cheating at cards.

Phuong Quoc Truong was also ordered to forfeit nearly $2.8 million to the US government and pay $5.7 million in restitution to several casinos.

US District Judge John Houston in San Diego also ordered Mr. Truong to give up two houses in San Diego, two properties in Vietnam, a 2001 Porsche Carrera, a Rolex watch, and a diamond-encrusted pendant.

Truong was one of 37 people federal authorities say were involved in a criminal group called the “Tran Organization.” The group, based in San Diego, targeted casinos across the US and in Canada to carry out a sophisticated “false shuffle” scam in blackjack and mini-baccarat games. The ring had been operating since August 2002, Justice Department officials said.

Members of the group would bribe casino card dealers and their supervisors to undertake false shuffles that would leave the playing cards in a predictable order. Members of the organization would then bet on the known order of the cards, “winning” thousands of dollars. On one occasion the group walked away with several hundred thousand dollars, officials said.

The scam included use of hidden transmitters and computer software capable of predicting the order of the cards in blackjack games.

The group targeted Indian casinos in Mississippi, Connecticut, Louisiana, Indiana, Nevada, California, Washington State, and Ontario, Canada. Gambling revenues at tribal casinos rival those in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

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