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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
For Immediate Release
Randy S. Grossman, United States Attorney
www.justice.gov/usao-sdca
Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Leader of Criminal Organization Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison for Role in Operation of Illegal Gambling Dens

SAN DIEGO – Long Ngoc Tran (42) was sentenced in federal court yesterday to 72 months in prison for his role in the operation of dozens of illegal gambling dens that fostered drug trafficking, violent crime, and gang activity within a small San Diego neighborhood.

On April 9, 2021, Tran was indicted for Conspiracy to Operate an Illegal Gambling Business and Maintaining a Drug-Involved Premises; in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; Operating an Illegal Gambling Business; in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1955; and Maintaining a Drug-Involved Premises; in violation of 21

U.S.C. § 856(a)(1). On April 14, 2021, Tran was arrested, made his initial appearance, and pled not guilty.

On July 28, 2022, pursuant to a plea agreement, Tran pled guilty to the first three counts of the Indictment, admitting to committing all three crimes.

During his sentencing, United States District Court Judge Marilyn Huff noted that Tran was affiliated with numerous gambling premises, and that drug trafficking was prevalent at these dens. Judge Huff also took into consideration Tran’s prior 2015 state court conviction for operating or maintaining a drug house. According to the indictment, Tran operated at least nine illegal gambling dens.

Based on publicly available filings, as far back as 2013, San Diego Police Department (SDPD) Street Gang Unit Detectives began to observe a steady increase in the prevalence of illegal gambling dens. Investigators learned that Asian gang members and associates were often involved in operating these illegal gambling dens and that methamphetamine was being used and sold at these illegal gambling dens. The illegal gambling dens were often located inside houses, apartments, and outbuildings in residential neighborhoods predominantly in City Heights, in the East San Diego area. It was common for gambling den owners to pay rent in cash to the owners of these properties and, in some cases, a percentage of the profits, as incentive to cast a blind eye to all the foot traffic.

In 2015, these locations began to draw more attention due to the frequency of violent crimes occurring in and around them, including robberies, shootings, stabbings, and assaults. Investigators learned that the patrons were often gang members, career criminals, habitual drug users, and fugitives.

In the fall of 2019, the San Diego Violent Crime Task Force - Gang Group (VCTF-GG) initiated an investigation dubbed “Marble Lion,” into the illegal gambling dens operating in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego, often within homes and small businesses. At the time, more than 24 such dens were operating on any given day. These gambling dens attracted other criminal activity, including the use and distribution of illegal of narcotics, sales of weapons, and prostitution.

From July 2018 through July 2020, there were over four hundred crime cases and over three hundred arrests within 150 feet of the thirty-six illegal gambling locations investigated, causing this area to be the highest crime neighborhood in the East San Diego area. Law Enforcement investigated homicides, shootings, stabbings, felony assaults, robberies, arson, auto thefts, burglaries, identity theft, firearm possession, drug sales/possession, and other crimes in and around these locations.

The illegal gambling dens were equipped with electronic gambling machines which were programmed with several games of chance such as poker, blackjack, keno, jacks or better, and slot games. Most locations of these establishments were open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with some shutting down in the early morning hours and starting up again in the afternoons. Investigators were also aware that most of these locations were outfitted with exterior and interior video surveillance cameras, which were often monitored remotely by the establishment owners and managers.

Investigators learned that these illegal gambling dens were also drug involved premises, commonly involving methamphetamine use and sales, as well as other drugs, which were sold by both employees and independent drug dealers. It was also common for employees to hand out small amounts of methamphetamine and “comp” customers who were playing. One owner described how he would give methamphetamine to patrons because it drew them to the location and kept them playing on gambling machines.

Between the fall of 2019 and the spring of 2021, VCTF-GG conducted more than 30 controlled drug and weapons purchases, performed extensive surveillance, and executed numerous search warrants. This culminated, in April 2021, with a large-scale midnight arrest and search operation involving more than 450 law enforcement officers from the FBI, HSI, BOP, DEA, ATF, IRS, San Diego Police Department, San Diego Sheriff’s Office, Chula Vista Police Department, National City Police Department, California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, and the San Diego District Attorney’s Office. This operation alone resulted in 37 arrests, the seizure of 287 gambling machines, pound quantities of methamphetamine, 2 firearms, and over $200,000. Subsequent operations have resulted in total arrests of more than 100 federal and local subjects, as well as total seizures of 13 pounds of methamphetamine, 47 firearms, over $590,000, over 400 gambling machines, and ounce quantities of cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and MDMA.

On April 9, 2021, the Grand Jury returned 17 related indictments (21CR1109-H through 21CR1124-H) charging 47 defendants for offenses related to illegal gambling, firearm offenses, and drug distribution.

“This operation shows the real public safety benefits that can be achieved through strong local and federal law enforcement partnerships,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “It is telling and rewarding that law- abiding residents noticed a positive impact on their communities and have expressed gratitude for law enforcement’s efforts.” Grossman praised the federal and county prosecutors as well as the team of FBI Special Agents, San Diego Police Department detectives/officers and other law enforcement agencies who worked so hard on this investigation.

"Today, the sentencing of Tran represents not only the end of the illegal gambling network he operated, but the termination of all violent crimes perpetrated due to the existence of these illegal gambling dens,” said Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy of the FBI’s San Diego Field Office. “Our focus is and always will be on protecting our communities from violence. We thank our partners that make up the Violent Crime Task Force – Gang Group for their coordination in ensuring that Tran returns to where he belongs—behind bars.”

“The top priority of the San Diego Police Department is violent crime. The success of this operation means safer neighborhoods for our City Heights community and our city as a whole,” said Police Chief David Nisleit. “I want to thank our officers and partner agencies for their hard work on this investigation.”

“By working together, we were able to bring peace back to a neighborhood that was being overrun with crime because of these illegal gambling dens, which are magnets for gang violence,” said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan. “The District Attorney’s Office investigated and filed criminal charges against 30 defendants on the state side for a murder, robberies, shootings, illegal possession of firearms, and drug sales. I am grateful to the U.S. Attorney, FBI, San Diego Police Department and the Violent Crimes Task Force for their commitment to shutting down these illegal operations.”

DEFENDANTS

Case Number 21CR1109-H

Name

Age

Hometown

Sentence

LONG NGOC TRAN (1),aka “Long Tu,”

42

San Diego

72 months

TUNG THANH NGUYEN (2),aka “Ang,”

52

San Diego

30 months

THANH LAN THI NGUYEN (3),aka “Lan,”

43

San Diego

Case still pending

DENNIS MICHAEL DIBLASI (4),aka “Drago,”

49

San Diego

21 months

WAYNE JONATHAN CLAYTON Jr. (5),aka “G-Wayne,”

52

San Diego

18 months

YVONNE MICHELLE AGUILAR (6),aka “Michelle,”

43

San Diego

Case still pending

ROBERT JAMES WRIGHT (7),

40

San Diego

Case still pending

TAM ONH ONG (8), aka “Fireball,”

45

San Diego

Case still pending

SAENGAMPHAY M. PHOMMASANE (9) aka “Melinda,”

40

San Diego

Case still pending

KAREN RENE ANN PRANGSAMPHAN- PORTER (10), aka “KK,”

33

Arizona

15 months home confinement

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Conspiracy (Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 371 – Conspiracy) Illegal Gambling Business (Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 1955)

Maintaining a Drug-Involved Premises (Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 856(a)(1)) Distribution of Methamphetamine (Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 841(a)(1))

Maximum Penalties: For Conspiracy Charge: Five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Maximum Penalties: For Illegal Gambling Business Charge: Five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Maximum Penalties: For Maintaining Drug Involved Premises Charges: Five years’ imprisonment and a $500,000 fine.

Maximum Penalties: For Distribution of Methamphetamine Charges: Life in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a $10 million fine.

Case Number 21CR1110-H

Name

Age

Hometown

Sentence

JIMMY HUI BANH (1),

45

San Diego

57 months

JOSE ANTONIO TORRESDAY (2),aka “Pepe,”

31

San Diego

Time served

TINA SENKET (3),

35

San Diego

387 days

JIMMY LU (4),aka “Nam Van Lu,” aka “Nam Thao,”

56

San Diego

Case still pending

ARCADIO MAMURI CRUZ (5),aka “Bangsta,” aka “Archie,”

38

San Diego

Case still pending

MARK ANONAS ARCELAO (6), aka “Lil Tipsy,”

30

Jacksonville, Florida

41 months

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Conspiracy (Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 371 – Conspiracy) Illegal Gambling Business (Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 1955)

Maintaining a Drug-Involved Premises (Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 856(a)(1)) Felon in Possession of a Firearm (18, U.S.C., Secs. 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2))

Maximum Penalties: For Conspiracy Charge: Five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Maximum Penalties: For Illegal Gambling Business Charge: Five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Maximum Penalties: For Maintaining Drug Involved Premises Charges: Five years’ imprisonment and a $500,000 fine.

Maximum Penalties: For Felon in Possession of Firearm Charges: Ten years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Case Number 21CR1111-H

Name

Age

Hometown

Sentence

*TRI MINH VO, (1),

39

San Diego

fugitive

TIEN HONG HONG LE (2),aka “Mr. Le,”

59

Phoenix, AZ

24 months

DONG VAN NGUYEN (3),

45

San Diego

36 months

DANG VAN NGUYEN (4),

55

San Diego

Case still pending

MICHELLE SALVADORE EDWARDS (5),

49

San Ysidro

41 months

KHANG DINH NGUYEN (6), aka “K-Y,”

47

San Diego

Time served

LEETRI DANG (7),

38

San Diego

Time served

KE VAN TRAN (8), aka “Kevin,”

59

San Diego

Case still pending

KIARA PORSHA EASLEY (9),

30

San Diego

Time served

TO VAN LAI (10), aka “Took,”

44

San Diego

60 months

CU VAN HUYN (11), aka “Cucu,”

41

San Diego

Time served

DAPHNE NICOLE RIVERA (12),

47

El Cajon

33 months

WILLIAM VANNA BOUNSAVATH (13) aka “Ray Ray,”

36

San Diego

46 months

ALMA SOCORRO SILVA (14),

50

San Diego

Case still pending

TONY NGUYEN (15) aka “Lucky,”

42

San Diego

63 months

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Conspiracy (Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 371 – Conspiracy) Illegal Gambling Business (Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 1955)

Maintaining a Drug-Involved Premises (Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 856(a)(1)) Distribution of Methamphetamine (Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 841(a)(1))

Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine (Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 841(a)(1))

Maximum Penalties: For Conspiracy Charge: Five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Maximum Penalties: For Illegal Gambling Business Charge: Five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Maximum Penalties: For Maintaining Drug Involved Premises

Charges: Five years imprisonment and a $500,000 fine.

Maximum Penalties: For Possession with Intent to Distribute and Distribution of Methamphetamine Charges: Life in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a $10 million fine.

Case Number 21CR1112-H

Name

Age

Hometown

Sentence

*LE THI LE (1), aka “Chi Le,”

72

San Diego

10 months

PHOUNG THANH BUI (2)

47

San Diego

40 months

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Conspiracy (Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 371 – Conspiracy) Illegal Gambling Business (Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 1955)

Maintaining a Drug-Involved Premises (Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 856(a)(1)) Distribution of Methamphetamine (Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 841(a)(1))

Maximum Penalties: For Conspiracy Charge: Five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Maximum Penalties: For Illegal Gambling Business Charge: Five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Maximum Penalties: For Maintaining Drug Involved Premises Charges: Five years’ imprisonment and a $500,000 fine.

Maximum Penalties: For Distribution of Methamphetamine Charges: Forty years’ imprisonment with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a $5 million fine.

Case Number 21CR1113-H

Name

Age

Hometown

Sentence

ARTHUR MARCELINO CASTILLO

42

San Diego

51 months

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Distribution of Methamphetamine (Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 841(a)(1))

Maximum Penalties: For Distribution of Methamphetamine Charge: life in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a $10 million fine.

Case Number 21CR1114-H

Name

Age

Hometown

Sentence

*ENRIQUE SAMUEL DUENAS, aka “Kiki,”

30

San Diego

fugitive

SUMMARY OF CHARGES
 

Distribution of Methamphetamine (Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 841(a)(1))

Felon in Possession of a Firearm (18, U.S.C., Secs. 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2))

Importation of Methamphetamine (Title 21, U.S.C., Secs. 952 & 960)

Maximum Penalties: For Distribution of Methamphetamine Charges: Forty years’ imprisonment with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a $5 million fine.

Maximum Penalties: For Felon in Possession of Firearm Charges: Ten years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Maximum Penalties: Importation of Methamphetamine Charges: life in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a $10 million fine.

Case Number 21CR1115-H

Name

Age

Hometown

Sentence

JULIUS GREENOGE

41

San Diego

15 months

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Felon in Possession of a Firearm (18, U.S.C., Secs. 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2))

Maximum Penalties: For Felon in Possession of Firearm Charge: 10 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Case Number 21CR1116-H

Name

Age

Hometown

Sentence

*MARTA LIDIA GUTIERREZ

29

San Diego

fugitive

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Importation of Methamphetamine (Title 21, U.S.C., Secs. 952 & 960)

Maximum Penalties: Importation of Methamphetamine Charges: Life in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a $10 million fine.

Case Number 21CR1117-H

Name

Age

Hometown

Sentence

*KEOUDONE INTHAVONG

49

San Diego

41 months

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Possession with Intent to Distribute/Distribution of Methamphetamine (Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 841(a)(1))

Maximum Penalties: For Possession with Intent to Distribute and Distribution of Methamphetamine Charges: Forty years’ imprisonment with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a $5 million fine.

Case Number 21CR1118-H

Name

Age

Hometown

Sentence

*PHONETHIP PETE INTHAVONG

52

San Diego

40 months

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Possession with Intent to Distribute (Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 841(a)(1))

Maximum Penalties: For Possession with Intent to Distribute Charge: Forty years’ imprisonment with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a $5 million fine.

Case Number 21CR1119-H

Name

Age

Hometown

Sentence

PHINATH PETER KHVANN, aka “Peanut,”

46

San Diego

18 months

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Felon in Possession of a Firearm (18, U.S.C., Secs. 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2))

Maximum Penalties: For Felon in Possession of Firearm Charge: Ten years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Case Number 21CR1120-H

Name

Age

Hometown

Sentence

THANH NGUYEN, aka “Poway,”

46

Poway

Case still pending

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Felon in Possession of a Firearms and Ammunition (18, U.S.C., Secs. 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2))

Maximum Penalties: For Felon in Possession of Firearm and Ammunition Charges: years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Case Number 21CR1121-H

Name

Age

Hometown

Sentence

DAVID LIBANAN OPHEIM, aka “Casper,”

48

San Diego

48 months

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Possession with Intent to Distribute (Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 841(a)(1))

Maximum Penalties: For Possession with Intent to Distribute Charge: 40 years’ imprisonment with a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years and a $5 million fine.

Case Number 21CR1122-H

Name

Age

Hometown

Sentence

SEAN MICHAEL RIED (1)

36

San Diego

46 months

TUNG NGOC NGUYEN (2)

26

San Diego

60 months

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Distribution of Methamphetamine (Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 841(a)(1))

Maximum Penalties: For Distribution of Methamphetamine Charge: Forty years’ imprisonment with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a $5 million fine.

Case Number 21CR1123-H

Name

Age

Hometown

Sentence

*WILLIAM HENRY SCOVALL, aka “Cap,”

30

San Diego

24 months

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Felon in Possession of a Firearm (18, U.S.C., Secs. 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2))

Maximum Penalties: For Felon in Possession of Firearm Charge: Ten years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Case Number 21CR1124-H

Name

Age

Hometown

Sentence

CESAR ALONZO VALLADOLID, aka “Playboy,”

38

San Diego

Case still pending

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine (Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 841(a)(1))

Felon in Possession of a Firearm (18, U.S.C., Secs. 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2))

Importation of Methamphetamine (Title 21, U.S.C., Secs. 952 & 960)

Maximum Penalties: For Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine Charges: Life in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a $10 million fine.

Maximum Penalties: For Felon in Possession of Firearm Charges: Ten years’ imprisonment and a  $250,000 fine.

Maximum Penalties: Importation of Methamphetamine Charges: Forty years’ imprisonment with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a $5 million fine.

AGENCIES

Members on the Violent Crimes Task Force

FBI

San Diego Police Department San Diego Sheriff’s Department Internal Revenue Service Homeland Security Investigations National City Police Department Chula Vista Police Department Federal Bureau of Prisons

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation San Diego County Probation

San Diego County District Attorney’s Office

Additional partner agencies participating in the takedown

Drug Enforcement Administration

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

U.S. Marshals Service

California Bureau of Gambling Control San Diego City Attorney’s Office

The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

 

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