It’s been a 10-year debacle, but the leader of the aptly dubbed ‘Tran Organization’, Van Thu Tran, has finally been convicted of and sentenced for her role in an estimated 7-million dollar scamming of at least 29 US and Canadian casinos.
Van Thu Tran, now 47 years old, and her husband were both employed as card dealers at a San Diego Indian Tribal casino in 2002. During this time, they came up with a devious plan to scam the casino out of easy money by incorporating a “false shuffle” technique that is common among thaumaturgists. They started by employing friends and family to inconspicuously track the Pai Gow Poker tables and relay the order of cards to other co-conspirators who would enter these cards into a computer.
In order for the scheme to work, they simply had to bribe the casino’s dealer and that table’s supervisor, thus would know exactly how the next deck of cards would play out. After playing once through the deck, the dealer would use the false shuffling technique, and the Tran Organization would have players at the table who would receive discreet signals from other members of the team in the area telling them how to bet.
The scam was so successful that they ended up branching out into blackjack and baccarat games as well, engaging at least 42 known conspirators, including members of the Tran family, friends and employees across multiple US and Canadian casinos. It didn’t take long for the casinos to figure out something was going on, but they could not pinpoint a method. Thus, in 2004, the FBI received multiple calls from casino operations asking them to investigate.
It was a long, arduous process, but in mid-2007, Van Thu Tran and 18 more individuals were charged with multiple counts of conspiracy that included racketeering, theft and/or money laundering. Further indictments were unsealed over the next two years, multiplying the total of alleged conspirators. By 2009, as many as 42 named offenders had pled guilty to their charges, including Van Thu Tran. Through various admissions of guilt from these defendants, 29 US and Canadian casinos were designated victims.
Multiple trials were held, as the offenses varied from one group or individual to another. Van Thu Tran pled guilty to her role in the Tran Organization on January 14, 2011, but it wasn’t until September 28, 2013, that she finally received her sentencing, 10 years after the whole debacle began.
As the head of the Tran Organization, Van Thu Tran was sentenced to 3 years in prison, followed by another 3 years of supervision upon release. She has been ordered to pay restitution to the tune of $5,753,416, spread across a number of the casinos that fell victim to the scheme. Tran must also forfeit a multitude of assets that include several bank accounts and expensive jewelry.
This puts an end to one of the longest running, and certainly most successful, casino scams in recorded history. It just goes to show that, in the overall scheme of things, cheaters never really win.