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Vietnamese gang members to be arraigned Friday in Santa Ana

February 5, 2009 |  3:33 pm

Three members of a Vietnamese street gang will be arraigned Friday morning in Santa Ana for an execution-style retaliation murder of a gang associate more than a decade old, authorities said. Arraignment for a fourth member was pending his return to California.

Anthony Paul Johnson Jr., 32, formerly of Westminster; Giang Thuy Nguyen, 33, formerly of Fountain Valley; Truc Ngoc Tran, 31, of Santa Ana; and Tam Hung Nguyen, 33, formerly of Riverside, are accused of murdering fellow gang member Viet Nguyen, 18, after he abandoned the four men Feb. 24, 1995, during a home-invasion robbery in Huntington Beach.

All four face one count of murder and one felony count of conspiracy to commit murder. Each man also was charged with special-circumstance allegations for murder by lying in wait and murder to avoid arrest, and sentencing enhancements for committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang.

Giang Nguyen also faces a burglary charge from a previous incident, according to a press statement from the Orange County district attorney's office.

The fourth member, Tam Hung Nguyen, 33, faces similar charges and a count of discharging a firearm. Authorities say he was arrested in Anoka County, Minn.

Johnson and Giang Nguyen were already in state prison at the time of the indictment on unrelated charges and were brought to Orange County for the arraignment. Tran was arrested Jan. 17 in Santa Ana by the Costa Mesa Police Department.

The four men face maximum life terms in prison without the possibility of parole, the statement said. Authorities say that in February 1995, Johnson, Giang Nguyen and Viet Nguyen broke into a Huntington Beach home where Viet Nguyen's high school classmate lived. The men wore ski masks during the break-in, said Farrah Emami, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.

Fearing he would be recognized by the classmate, who was in the house at the time, Viet Nguyen fled and left the two others to finish the crime. Later that night, Giang Nguyen, Johnson, Tam Nguyen and Tran met at a house in Midway City and conspired to kill Viet Nguyen. They feared that if the classmate were to identify Viet Nguyen, he would identify Johnson and Giang Nguyen, officials said.

Early the next morning, Tam Nguyen had Viet Nguyen drive him through Orange County under the pretense of looking for a drug dealer's home, authorities said. As they were driving along the Costa Mesa Freeway, Tam Nguyen pretended to be sick and allegedly told Viet Nguyen to pull over, police said. Tam Nguyen then pulled out a semiautomatic handgun and shot Viet Nguyen in the back of the head, authorities said.

Tran, who was following in another car, then drove Tam Nguyen away. The four men allegedly met at a motel in Anaheim to come up with alibis, officials said. To avoid retribution from their own gang, the men told other members that Viet Nguyen had been killed by a drug dealer in Costa Mesa.

-- Ruben Vives