Vietnamese-American among two sentenced to life for armed robberies

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Six members of a gang that robbed two gold shops, stealing some 30 taels of gold in the central province of Binh Thuan in 2011, at a hearing on January 4

A court in the central province of Binh Thuan Friday handed down life sentences to two men, including a Vietnamese American, for committing two armed robberies of local gold shops in 2011.

Mark Joseph Nguyen, 35, and Nguyen Phuoc Hai, 36, were convicted of leading the gang that held up two gold shops in Cho Lau Town, Bac Binh District, stealing some 30 taels (1 tael equals to 37.5 grams) of gold.

According to the indictment, Nguyen, who has been convicted of drug-related crimes in the US and is listed as wanted by Interpol, along with Hai, masterminded a planned robbery of the Bac Binh branch of Agribank in Cho Lau.

Nguyen then gave Hai money to buy "devices" for the robberies, it said, adding that Hai also asked Huynh Ngoc Thai, 24, Truong Minh Toan, 47, and Bui Trung Kien, 28, to join them.

The gang first stole the car of Nguyen Duc Tong in Ho Chi Minh City, but Toan and Thai backed out, feeling that robbing the bank would be too risky.

In the end, the gang abandoned their proposed bank heist and decided instead to target gold shops.

They attacked the Hoang Kim shop with tasers and iron poles on June 2, escaping with 7.2 taels of gold, which they sold for VND167 million (US$7,929) and then burned down the stolen car, according to prosecutors.

On December 14 that same year, Hai, Nguyen, and Thai together with Nguyen Bao Quoc, 34, robbed the Thu Thanh Gold Shop of more than 20 taels of gold.

After the robbery, they attempted to flee in a rented car, but were chased by police and locals. Nguyen then dropped off Thai and Quoc on the way before throwing the stolen gold into a local river.


Police still searching for gold in Vietnamese American-led heist

Nguyen later lost control of the vehicle and crashed into Nguyen Nam, killing him on the spot. He and Hai were arrested immediately afterward.

Thai and Quoc subsequently turned themselves into the police, who recovered the gold from the river three months later.

The Binh Thuan People's Court sentenced Thai, Quoc, Kien, and Toan to 19, 18, nine and three years in prison respectively.

The board of judges also ordered the gang to pay compensation totaling nearly VND366 million to Nam's family for his death, Tong for his stolen car, and the owner of the Hoang Kim gold shop for the lost gold.

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