[UPDATED with More Guilty Pleas:] 19 Alleged to Have Provided Loosest Slots in Garden Grove

Categories: Crime-iny
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UPDATE, JUNE 3, 4:57 P.M.: Two more defendants have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the multi-agency sweep of Little Saigon cafes alleged to have operated illegal gaming machines.

Hien Thanh Thi Nguyan, 41, of Garden Grove, and Quy Huu Tran, 61, of Santa Ana, both pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession and control of a prohibited slot machine. Other misdemeanor counts were dropped. They were sentenced to 18 months of informal probation and ordered to destroy their machines.

On May 25, Kim Ann Thi Lam, 53, of Garden Grove; Tony Trong Do, 58, of Yorba Linda; and Ngoc Ai Lu, 37 of Garden Grove; and Nina Trinh Dang, 42, of Westminster, pleaded guilty to the same counts and received the same sentences as Nguyan and Tran.

Ten other defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. (They are named in the original post.) No Thi La, 54, of Garden Grove; Uyen Tran, 38, of Orange; and Hanh Hong Le, 36, of Santa Ana, have not entered pleas.

My colleague R. Scott Moxley previously reported that lawyers for some cafe owners have sued police over the raids. See:



UPDATE, MAY 25, 5:15 P.M.: Four of the 19 defendants have already been convicted in the case of illegal gambling at Garden Grove cafés. Pleading guilty today to one misdemeanor count of possession of an unlawful gaming device, one misdemeanor count of possession or control of a slot machine, and one misdemeanor count of operation and maintenance of a slot machine each were: Kim Ann Thi Lam, 53, of Garden Grove; Tony Trong Do, 58, of Yorba Linda; and Ngoc Ai Lu, 37 of Garden Grove. Nina Trinh Dang, 42, of Westminster, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of possession or control of a slot machine.

They were each sentenced to 18 months of formal probation and ordered to forfeit and destroy the seized gaming machines and any of the money inside or that was associated with the machines. See which cafés they owned or managed in the original post on the next page.

Also today at the West Justice Center in Westminster, warrants were issued for co-defendants Holly Nguyen, 24, of Garden Grove, and Vickie Nguyen, 20, of Westminster, who are employees of Café Gossip in Garden Grove. They are charged with one misdemeanor count each of possession of an unlawful gaming device and possession or control of a slot machine.

The other 13 co-defendants--who are charged with one misdemeanor count each of possession of an unlawful gaming device, possession or control of a slot machine, and operation and maintenance of a slot machine--are scheduled to return for the continued arraignment June 2.

ORIGINAL POST, MAY 24, 10:18 A.M.: My colleague Michelle Woo recently posted on the crackdown in Little Saigon aimed at putting more clothes on scantily clad waitresses. Another component of the effort was to stop illegal gambling in Garden Grove cafés.

Today, the fruits of a three-month, multi-agency law enforcement investigation into illegal gambling in town are being born with the arraignment of 19 people charged with illegally possessing and operating gaming machines.

The joint investigation began in December 2010, targeting the owners and staffs at 16 Garden Grove cafés that are alleged to have illegally operated gaming machines. Under California law, the mere possession or control of any slot machine or gambling machine that takes customer money, credit cards or a token representing cash is prohibited (unless you're on an Indian reservation or other pre-approved location).

When the cafés were busted on March 29, 2011, several owners and staffers had large amounts of cash and "documented or recorded customer winnings," according to an Orange County District Attorney's office statement that noted the seizure of $140,000 and hundreds of illegal gambling machines.

Of the 19 people arrested that day, 17 were later charged with one misdemeanor count of possession of an unlawful gaming device, one misdemeanor count of possession or control of a slot machine, and one misdemeanor count of operation and maintenance of a slot machine.

Holly Nguyen, 24, of Garden Grove, and Vickie Nguyen, 20, of Westminster were charged with one misdemeanor count each of possession of an unlawful gaming device and possession or control of a slot machine. They are employees of Café Gossip, 12178 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove, where five gaming machines were seized by law enforcement.

Like the other defendants being arraigned today, they face sentences of up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines if convicted.

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