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Boss of SD-Based Casino Cheating Ring That Took $7M Pleads Guilty

A fired card dealer accused of leading a crew that swindled casinos out of $7 million has pleaded guilty to multiple charges in what federal prosecutors called one of largest cheating schemes ever broken up.

Phuong Quoc Truong, nicknamed Pai Gow John, ran the San Diego-based operation. The 42-year-old pleaded guilty Wednesday to racketeering conspiracy and theft charges.

The ring bribed casino supervisors and card dealers and used blocks of unshuffled cards.

Prosecutors say members of the crew would signal a card dealer to do a false shuffle and then bet on the known order of the cards.

The ring also used hidden transmitters and special software to predict the order in which cards would appear in blackjack and mini-baccarat games.

Authorities said the scheme targeted 16 gaming parlors in California, Nevada, Mississippi, Louisiana, Washington state, Indiana and Connecticut. Ten casinos were owned by American Indian tribes. 

"We are not aware of any other cases of this magnitude," Kathy Leodler of the San Diego FBI's field office said when the indictments were unsealed in May 2007.

The ring's biggest score came in October 2005 at the Resorts East Chicago hotel and casino in East Chicago, Ind. One of Truong's associates won $868,000 in 90 minutes, thanks to a dealer's false shuffle.

Truong admitted conspiring to cheat Sycuan Resort and Casino, his former employer. He had been a dealer at the San Diego-area casino until he was fired in 2002. Investigators said he performed a false shuffle there that let his associates win $525.

Truong faces up to 20 years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 15.

As part of his plea agreement, he is turning over $2.8 million. That includes two houses in the San Diego area and a 2001 Porsche Carrera.

Truong is the seventh of 19 members of the ring charged in San Diego federal court to plead guilty.

He also pleaded guilty to charges in a related case in Washington state. Among those charged was the son of Seattle's mayor, who was sentenced in December 2007 to three month's in prison.

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