Authorities in California have been conducting raids to uncover illegal gambling dens in Santa Ana. The recent raid apprehended nine suspects in gambling crimes, extortion, drug trafficking, and other related crimes. The feds also recovered many gambling devices.
The authorities revealed that the illegal gambling sites generated thousands of dollars daily. One of the people arrested is Niem Ngoc Ha, nicknamed Dung Body. The 46-year-old man from Fountain Valley operated four illegal casinos.
Mindy Bui, nicknamed Thuy from Westminster, managed the illegal gambling sites. Honganh Thi Pham was also arrested. Going by Hong also managed unlawful casinos.
Niem has taken a plea deal that could see him serve around 20 years in prison. He will plead guilty to conspiracy, running illegal gambling services, and bribery. The pleas will enter a federal court in a few weeks to come.
The prosecutor revealed disheartening details, including that Dung Body had ordered another defendant to assault a patron. He also directed another suspect to shoot an employee in the neck.
Dung allegedly operated four unlawful casinos in Santa Ana alongside three other defendants. The three defendants will face a trial scheduled for May 2023.
Authorities are still looking for two other suspects. One goes by Peanut and is from Cardona in Santa Ana. He allegedly used violence to protect Niem`s unlawful gambling sites.
Bribing a Police Officer
The suspects did more than run an illegal business. They also bribed a police officer.
Lopez was tasked with preventing law enforcement compliance checks at unlawful gambling sites in Santa Ana. Steven Lopez pleaded guilty to accepting bribes amounting to $128,000.
Lopez is suspected of giving Niem a heads-up about police officers closing down one of his dens in September 2020. He is no longer a police officer and is awaiting sentencing on June 5, 2023.
The Rise in Illegal Gambling
Prosecutors have noted that illegal gambling has been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the country in 2020. According to the U.S. Attorney for Central California Tracy L. Wilkison, more illicit gambling dens between 2020 and 2022 have impacted the quality of life of people in Orange County and surrounding counties.
Prosecutors have also explained that some casinos are situated in commercial districts while others are in residential neighborhoods. They continued to clarify that casinos in commercial districts are called nets, while those in residential areas are called slaphouses.
According to a revelation at a local TV station called KABC, a slaphouse casino is dubbed the name as it allows players to impose some control on some games. Slaphouses are hidden in abandoned buildings.
Authorities have been trying to crack down on these facilities for years. Many investigations reveal that illicit gambling sites have connections to gangs.
This revelation has motivated authorities to crack down on illegal gambling businesses. According to a statement released by California Attorney General Rob Bonta, the authority will not tolerate organized criminal activities and illicit gambling in California.
Bonta also added that families in California deserved to raise their kids and live in a safe environment. Illegal activities must go for families to enjoy safe neighborhoods.