Little Saigon's Kathleen Thi Hoang Luong thought she could smuggle another woman's eight-year-old Vietnamese boy into the United States illegally, but she had no covert activity skills.
Luong owns a small Garden Grove food catering business.
On the night of March 17, 2009, she flew out of Vietnam with Tuan Quoc Nguyen on the first leg of their flight to the U.S. and landed at Changi Airport in Singapore.
Nguyen, a Vietnamese national, carried a doctored U.S. passport under the fake name Andrew Pham.
An alert Singapore immigration official spotted the trickery, arrested Luong and threw her into a bedless, concrete prison for six months for "importing a child under false pretenses."
After her return to California, Luong--who became a U.S. citizen in 1989--found herself charged in a two-count federal indictment and, in Dec. 2012, she signed a guilty plea in exchange for a reduction in charges.
Considering Luong's Singapore prison trip, her relatively quick admission of guilt and her remorsefulness, federal prosecutor Fred W. Slaughter recommended a sentence of probation, a suggestion adopted by the taxpayer-funded, criminal defense lawyer.
That defense lawyer reported that Luong's prior prison stint caused "tremendous psychological harm."
This month inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter agreed to leniency.
Luong--a 38-year-old native of Saigon and graduate of La Quinta High School--will undergo federal probation supervision for three years.
Assisting a foreign national's illegal entry into the U.S. can easily result in a payday greater than $10,000.