FBI Hid $500,000 Deal With Informant In Wild OC Home Invasion Robbery Case

Bob Aul/OC Weekly
During 23 months of the ongoing Orange County snitch scandal that today won a national call for a U.S. Department of Justice probe, we've learned how certain courthouse prosecution teams cheat, how law-enforcement officials concoct clever explanations about how they accidentally rigged cases against dozens of defendants, and how judges--the people obligated to ensure honestly won convictions--are tolerating, if not outright encouraging, a pro-government warping of the criminal-justice system.

Our reporting has focused on a myriad of state court abuses that have captured national attention. But there's also cause for concern inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana. One sensational, pending appellate case underscores how defendants can be robbed of key evidence while FBI agents, assistant United States attorneys and judges shrug their shoulders.

Vo Duong Tran of Louisiana and Yu Sung Park of Illinois are serving 30-year sentences for 2009 convictions stemming from a bizarre home-invasion robbery plot in Orange County. Bizarre not just because the conspiracy involved a machine gun, silencers, bulletproof vests, the threat of wiping out any early arriving cops, and the expected plundering of cash and cocaine from inside a Fountain Valley residence near Mile Square Park--but also because Tran and Park are former lawmen.

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ProPublica Responds to Critics, 'Terror in Little Saigon' Producer Responds To Red Baiting, Threats

Illustration by Rob Dobi

After weeks of meetings, discussion, and anger from parts of the Vietnamese-American community as well as red-baiting attacks against one of the documentary's associate producers, ProPublica has issued a formal statement on Terror in Little Saigon, the ProPublica feature / PBS Frontline doc / and OC Weekly cover-by-excerpt that follows ProPublica's two-year long investigation into five unsolved murders of Vietnamese-American journalists.

The letter refutes or explains many of the criticisms made in a statement by Viet Tan, a political organization founded by many of the original members of the National United Front for the Liberation of Vietnam, the group the FBI suspected to be behind the murders. I've excerpted parts of the Viet Tan letter at the ProPublica in an answer-response format after the jump. You can read the full Viet Tan letter here and the full ProPublica statement here. Also after the jump, a talk with Tony Nguyen, the associate producer who's being red baited.

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Elder Vietnamese Prep Organized Response to "Terror in Little Saigon" Docu/OC Weekly Cover

Illustration by...someone
A lot of discussion went into the positioning and meaning behind this flag

Even when people are angry at us, they'll mistake us for the Register.

Yesterday night, a group of roughly three or four dozen mostly elderly Vietnamese-American community members held a meeting to discuss Terror in Little Saigon, the PBS Frontline/ProPublica documentary and story by A.C. Thompson currently riling some feathers in Little Saigon. Hosted by Garden Grove City Councilmember Phat Bui at Thu Vien Viet Nam community space in Garden Grove, on docket for discussion for the two-hour meeting was the effects of work on the Vietnamese-American community's image and what sorts of organized community response should happen (a letter-writing campaign? phone calls? full protests?).

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Frontline Doc on Slayings of Viet-Am Journos Causes Row in Little Saigon

Illustration by Rob Dobi

Public life in Little Saigon can be a minefield. Whether you're a politician, a journalist, or a community activist, doing something that might challenge the popular narrative about the Vietnamese-American enclave (strong, resilient, successful), can be cause for outrage.

The latest target for community outrage? PBS Frontline and ProPublica. A joint Frontline/ProPublica documentary has caused uproar in part of the Vietnamese-American community after airing last week. Terror in Little Saigon, an excerpt of which ran as the Weekly's last cover story, followed ProPublica journalist A.C. Thompson's investigation into the murders of five Vietnamese-American journalists in the 80s that the FBI suspected were tied to the National United Front for the Freedom of Vietnam, a post-war organization of Vietnamese diaspora with a stated goal of toppling the Communist government.

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Terror in Little Saigon: An Old War Comes to a New Country

Illustration by Rob Dobi

By A.C. Thompson, ProPublica

The journalists were assassinated on American soil, one after another.

Duong Trong Lam was the first. He was 27 years old and ran a Vietnamese-language publication called Cai Dinh Lang, which he mailed to immigrants around the country. A gunman found him as he walked out of his San Francisco apartment building one morning and shot him, a single bullet piercing his pulmonary artery, just above the heart.

For magazine publisher Pham Van Tap, the end came more slowly. He was sleeping in his small office in Garden Grove when an arsonist set fire to the building. He was heard screaming before he succumbed to smoke inhalation.

In Houston, a killer chased pajama-clad Nguyen Dam Phong from his home and shot him seven times with a .45-caliber handgun. The murder marked the end of Dam Phong's twice-monthly broadsheet newspaper, Tu Do.

All together, five Vietnamese-American journalists were killed between 1981 and 1990. All worked for small publications serving the refugee population that sought shelter in the U.S. after the fall of Saigon in 1975. At least two other people were murdered as well.

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Frontline Unveils 'Terror in Little Saigon' Tonight

Courtesy of Frontline
Longtime readers of OC Weekly may remember our 1999 expose on the Vietnamese Organization to Exterminate Communists and Restore the Nation (VOECRN). Based on highly-redacted FBI files, the story explored a series of still-unsolved murders of Vietnamese-American journalists across in the United States during the 1980s, including Orange County.

Tonight, Frontline, PBS' award-winning investigative documentary program, will air an episode that not only breaks more than a decade of national media silence on the murders, but presents dramatic new information that comes close to finally breaking the case.

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In the Heart of Santa Ana, Bao Nguyen Makes His (Third) Stand

Photo by Danny Liao

It's been a wild few years for Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen. In nearly less time than it takes for a kid to learn how to talk, Nguyen's won a mayoral election as an underdog (by something in the neighborhood of 14 votes, no less), been accused of being a communist a couple dozen times, screamed at, slandered and seen his opponents try to pin scandal after scandal on him. So yesterday at noon, as Nguyen stood in front of a handful of supporters and before a small gaggle of media members preparing to announce his run for Congress, it was a pretty low-key day for him. Never mind the important lunch meeting to rush to and a city council meeting later that day, to boot.

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Asian Boyz Gang Membership Dispute Lands In Federal Court

Tam Trong Nguyen didn't sport any Asian Boyz criminal street gang tattoos. Nguyen wasn't known to flash gang signs or wear gang paraphernalia. He didn't answer to a gang moniker and cops never spotted him at any known gang hangout.

Nonetheless, Joe Pirooz, a veteran Long Beach police officer who has extensively studied the gang, offered 2010 trial "expert" testimony that while Nguyen didn't display the normal signs of Asian Boyz membership, he was still definitely in the underworld organization.

Pirooz's reasoning?

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Garden Grove Police Union: Mayor Bao Nguyen a Drunk, OC Weekly Liars

Photo by John Gilhooley
Santos family brutalized by Garden Grove PD

On Thursday afternoon, the Garden Grove Police Association (GGPA), the union that truly represents the finest of Garbage Grove, sent out a press release regarding our coverage of union head Mike Viscomi recording a conversation between him and Mayor Bao Nguyen. Moxley wrote why what Viscomi did was a no-no and noted the obvious: that a random recording involving Nguyen talking trash on his council rival, Phat Bui, somehow magically seeing the light of day for opponents to request and make public was no coincidence.

Not so, said the GGPA press release, which insisted Viscomi was just doing his job and accused Mox of being "biased and factually inaccurate." "Contrary to Moxley's inferences throughout his article," the press release stated, "Sergeant Viscomi did not surreptitiously record Mayor Nguyen in the hopes of advancing a political agenda to 'politically assassinate' Mayor Nguyen."

But in that very press release, the GGPA did what they claimed they didn't do: try to politically assassinate Nguyen.

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Garden Grove City Council Rescinds Support of Obama Immigration Orders: Update

Korean Resource Center
Garden Grove City Council members debate President Obama's executive order on immigration.
UPDATE, AUG. 13, 9:21 A.M.: The Garden Grove City Council voted Tuesday night to rescind its approval of a non-binding resolution in support of President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration (a.k.a. the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA and Deferred Action for Parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents or DAPA programs).

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