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Former FBI agent is guilty in O.C. robbery plot

March 19, 2009|My-Thuan Tran

A former FBI agent who meticulously planned to rob an Orange County residence that he thought was a drug house was convicted in federal court in Santa Ana on Wednesday on charges related to the botched home-invasion robbery.

The "stash house" robbery that lured Vo Duong Tran all the way from New Orleans and for which he was equipped with bulletproof vests, assault rifles and 630 rounds of ammunition was actually nothing more than pure invention by federal agents trying to snare their ex-colleague.

Tran, 41, had conspired with a supposed accomplice to commit armed robbery in Orange County and to develop a crew of criminal associates to commit violent crimes, jurors in the federal case found. The accomplice told him about the Fountain Valley drug house, said to contain $500,000 in cash.

In reality, the accomplice turned out to be an FBI informant who was secretly recording conversations with Tran as part of the sting operation. Prosecutors played the tapes during the four-week trial.

But Tran's attorney, Alex Kessel, said the tapes were misleading. Kessel argued that Tran never intended to commit a robbery and that Tran -- who he said remained devoted to the law -- was instead playing along with the supposed drug house scheme to gather information on the informant in order to turn him over to authorities.

Tran worked as a special agent for the FBI in Chicago for 11 years before he was fired on the grounds that he had impersonated an officer while he was on administrative leave. Tran was acquitted of the impersonation charge in court.

Jurors in federal district court in Santa Ana reached a verdict after deliberating for one day. Tran and co-defendant Yu Sung Park, 36, of Chicago were convicted of conspiracy to obstruct commerce by robbery, interstate travel to commit a crime with a firearm and possession of a machine gun. They face a minimum 30 years in federal prison.

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my-thuan.tran@latimes.com

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