[UPDATE at end] The Little Saigon website owner accused of running an international satellite piracy operation now faces accusations that he destroyed thousands of records after a federal judge in Orange County ordered him to comply with Dish Network subpoenas.
For a recent Moxley Confidential, Vietnamese immigrant Tan Minh Nguyen assured me that he is not a pirate, doesn't know how to break complicated satellite access codes and didn't knowingly allow any of the 177,000 members of his website to post illegally obtained information.
Yet, Nguyen--a 44-year-old, single-father of two young boys in Westminster--is in serious trouble. According to court records, he twice failed to show up to scheduled hearings in U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna's Santa Ana courtroom and has not fully complied with court orders issued more than three months ago.
Nguyen claims he's been overwhelmed by a corporate giant tossing complicated legal documents at him, but Selna is so far siding with Dish Network.
Last month, Selna said he was considering fining Nguyen more than $100,000 for contempt of court and incarcerating him if he didn't begin to obey his orders.
It's never a good idea to test the patience of a federal judge and the situation grew more dire for Nguyen today when Dish Network lawyers David A. Van Riper (of Tustin) and Chad M. Hagan and Stephen M. Ferguson (both of Houston) announced that they had hired computer forensic specialist Steven Rogers, a retired member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police tech crime section.
Rogers, who is president of Digital Evidence International, analyzed a DVD that Nguyen claimed was a complete copy of his website, ftaforall. According to Rogers, thousands of records had been deleted including data about the administrator, the administrator's private messages and email contacts.
"Data had been altered, modified and, in some instances, relevant evidence deleted at or near the time the defendant created the DVD," he concluded.
That forceful assertion could be strike three for the lawyer-less Nguyen. He may want to prepare to be taken into custody by U.S. marshals at the July 9 hearing inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.
Nguyen, who bought his domain name through GoDaddy.com and fled communist Vietnam on a boat as a boy in 1978, has not responded to repeated attempts for a follow up interview.
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Dish Network officials claim that satellite pirates cost the company millions of dollars annually in lost subscriber fees.
[UPDATE, July 10, 2012: Yesterday, Judge Selna ordered Nguyen to submit to a deposition by Dish Network lawyers and will considered pending potential contempt of court fines at a hearing in several weeks. Nguyen told me that the the company's experts have tampered with the website file he surrendered to them. He also claimed that the company's main lawyer threatened to wreck his life and make sure his two young boys don't have money to go to college.]