A woman who admitted helping to mastermind a casino card-shuffling scam to garner millions of dollars from casinos around the country and Canada -- including Pechanga in Temecula -- was sentenced to three years in prison Friday.
According to FBI officials, Van Thu Tran and up to 41 others cheated some 39 casinos in the United States and Canada out of $7 million, using a shuffle scam that involved bribing dealers to keep blocs of cards unshuffled.
Tran admitted forming the Tran Organization with co-defendants Phuong Quoc Truong, Tai Khiem Tran and some others.
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 conspirators would arrange to have someone count cards, then signal to a dealer to leave a bloc of cards unshuffled, so that the criminals could bet on the previous order of cards, according to the FBI.
The scam was perpetrated during blackjack and mini-baccarat games, the FBI reported.
The judge also ordered Tran to pay $5.7 million in restitution to several casinos.
She also forfeited her assets, including jewelry and bank accounts, the FBI reported.
Tran will also spend three years on parole when her prison term is concluded, according to the FBI.
"Van Thu Tran entered her guilty plea in San Diego on January 14, 2011," the FBI news release states.
The investigation of the Tran Organization led to the filing of three separate indictments in 2007, 2008, and 2009.
A three-count indictment was returned in San Diego on May 22, 2007, and unsealed on May 24, 2007; it charged Tran and 13 others each with one count of conspiracy to participate in the affairs of a racketeering enterprise; conspiracy to commit several offenses against the United States -- including conspiracy to steal money and other property from Indian tribal casinos -- and one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The indictment also charged five others with conspiracy against the United States -- including conspiracy to steal money and other property from Indian tribal casinos -- and one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Court documents also showed 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, the FBI stated.
To date, 42 defendants have pleaded guilty to charges relating to the casino-cheating conspiracy, according to the FBI.