Honganh Thi Pham, a 41-year-old Garden Grove woman, pleaded guilty on Monday to a federal conspiracy charge after a crackdown by the Orange County Asian Organized Crime Task Force on illegal gambling, extortion and drug trafficking in Santa Ana.
Pham admitted to conspiring with three other defendants to operate an illegal gambling business from April 2019 through August 2021, according to her plea agreement.
The prosecutors said that Pham managed illegal casinos known as “nets” or “slaphouses” in strip malls and homes, including four in Santa Ana.
The other co-defendants awaiting trial are:
- Niem Ngoc Ha, aka “Dung Body,” 46, of Fountain Valley, who allegedly opened and operated four illegal casinos commonly called “nets” (if they are in a commercial district) or “slaphouses” (for those in residential areas), all of which were located in Santa Ana;
- Mindy Bui, aka “Thuy,” 36, of Westminster, who allegedly managed Ha’s illegal casinos;
- Sammy Cardona, aka “Peanut,” 36, of Santa Ana, one of two defendants still being sought by authorities, who “would use violence to protect defendant Ha’s illicit casinos,” according to the indictment. Cardona is currently a fugitive.
Ha is additionally charged with bribery for allegedly paying approximately $128,000 to the now-convicted, former Santa Ana Police Officer Steven Lopez in an effort to protect his illicit casinos from law enforcement intervention. Lopez told Ha in September 2020 that Santa Ana police officers were planning to shut down one of his casinos in the coming days, according to the indictment. Lopez, who pleaded guilty in December 2020 to accepting the bribes, is scheduled to be sentenced on October 17.
The prosecutors alleged in the plea agreement that Bui reportedly told Ha back on Sept. 3, 2020, that a fight had broken out among customers at EZ Boba, and Bui then asked Ha to order Cardona to physically assault the customer that started the fight. Ha then agreed to issue the assault order to Cardona. On the same day, defendant informed Ha that Cardona was on his way to EZ Boba to physically assault the customer who had started the fight.
Pham is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 25.