By Thomas Claburn
July 2, 2008
Between March 2003 and July 2006, the Tran Organization -- a group of
high-tech card cheats -- scammed casinos around the country for about $7
million. On one occasion, they made $868,000 in about 90 minutes.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice said that Son Hong Johnson,
one of the members of the group, had pleaded guilty to cheating casinos
around the country. He is the 11th defendant to plead guilty out of 13
individuals named in an indictment returned on May 22, 2007.
One of the defendants, Han Truong Nguyen, was sentenced in May to 27
months in prison and ordered to pay $1,896,659 in restitution. The
remanding defendants await sentencing. Johnson is scheduled to be
sentenced in December.
According to the indictment, the group would bribe card dealers at
casinos to create a false shuffle that returned a group of cards to the
deck in a known order. This "slug" of cards enabled Tran members to
anticipate the cards players would be dealt.
One member of the group would act as "card recorder" and would note at
least some of the cards dealt during the course of play. "During
mini-baccarat games, the card recorder usually would record the value of
the cards on a paper form the casino provided to mini-baccarat players
in the normal course of play," the indictment said. "In blackjack games,
the card recorder would use a hidden transmitter or microphone and a
cellular telephone to relay the order of the cards to an enterprise
member or associate, who would enter the order of the cards into a
computer program loaded with a specially designed card tracking computer
One of the devices used by the group was a wireless transmitter
purchased from the Spy Shops of the U.S. and Canada. The indictment does
not specifically name the device used, but it may have been what the
site calls the wireless in-ear cellular communicator ($950), which is
designed for covert communication.
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