United States District Judge Andrew J. Guilford in Santa Ana sentenced 42-year-old former FBI special agent Vo Duong Tran to 30 years in federal prison for scheming to commit a home-invasion robbery at a Fountain Valley residence he mistakenly thought was a drug "stash house."
Guildford also sentenced Tran's accomplice, Yu Sung Park, 36, of Wilmette, Illinois, to 30 years in prison.
Park had previously worked as a Niles, Illinois, auxiliary police officer. Tran, who lived in New Orleans at the time of his arrest, had served as a special agent in the FBI's Chicago Division from 1992 to April 2003, when his employment was terminated after having been put on administrative leave in August 2001.
Tran and Park were unaware that federal authorities were listening to them from the beginning of their would-be caper. During trial, prosecutors played for the jury scores of undercover recordings in which Tran repeatedly expressed an interest in traveling to Orange County to commit an armed robbery.
He said he wanted to have one of his trusted, "dialed-in" associates participate in the robbery and that he would provide the necessary "tools" and "equipment," including firearms, silencers and bullet-proof vests.
Tran and Park checked into a Fountain Valley hotel and, on the night of July 14, 2008, they met with two men to plan an armed, home-invasion robbery at a home in that city. The out-of-towners were unaware that the "associates" they were meeting with were really an undercover FBI agent and a private citizen working with the bureau--and that they were wired.
Both Tran and Park instructed the undercover operatives to shoot anyone who did not follow instructions inside the house, which they believed to be filled with a drug trafficking organization's drugs and cash. It was actually vacant.
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After the meeting, Tran and Park were arrested.
A subsequent search of their hotel room turned up: five firearms, including a machine gun, a silencer-equipped assault rifle, and a .22-caliber handgun equipped with an integrated silencer; 630 rounds of ammunition loaded into 30 separate magazines; two bullet-proof vests; camouflage clothing; and electrical zip-ties that, according to the recorded statements, were to be used to handcuff anyone found inside the targeted house.
Several agencies participated in the investigation, including the Fountain Valley Police Department; the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Los Angeles; the Orange County-based Regional Narcotics Suppression Program; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Chicago and Louisiana, and the FBI in Louisiana and Chicago.
Tran and Park were found guilty in March 2009 of four felony counts: conspiracy to commit a robbery affecting interstate commerce, interstate travel to commit a crime of violence with a firearm, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and possession of a machine gun. The third charge--possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, coupled with the jury's special findings that they possessed a machine gun and two silencer-equipped handguns--carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison.