Photo: Harris County Sheriff’s Office
Three of the five men snagged in an illegal gaming room bust last week were released Saturday after a judge determined there wasn’t probable cause to hold them due to a paperwork technicality.
Thy Nguyen, James Wang, and Andy Vo and Vu The Vo were all charged Thursday with felony money laundering after a two-year-long investigation targeting Chinatown gambling parlors. A fifth man – Houston police officer Thomas Lam – was hit with a pair of misdemeanor gaming room violation charges.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office announced the arrests Friday morning, but a day later a local magistrate decided there wasn’t enough cause to keep Nguyen, Wang or Andy Vo in jail and instead ordered their release because a date listed on court papers didn’t match the date range of the alleged crimes. Prosecutors chalked it up to a paperwork error.
“We remain confident there is sufficient evidence that these three defendants should be charged with a crime, as have more than three dozen others in this operation,” district attorney spokesman Dane Schiller said Sunday. “The magistrate’s decision is rooted in a paperwork technicality that should be resolved Monday when prosecutors present evidence to a grand jury that will vote on whether to issue an indictment.”
The court filings only listed a single date in 2018, but the crimes the three men were charged with dated back to 2013 – so the magistrate questioned whether prosecutors had sufficiently tied the men to the full scope of the crimes they’re charged with over the entire time frame.
All five men were arrested Thursday a gambling parlor operating out of Café Than Quynh at 10804 Bellaire Boulevard, officials said at a press conference.
Lam – who officials say acted as the gaming room bouncer – was already released on $1,000 bail for both charges, while Vu The Vo is still jailed on $50,000 bail.
The sting raked in about $21,000 in cash seizures from a gambling operation officials said was run out of hidden rooms housing gambling machines. Kai Bang gang members were among the underground parlor’s regulars, officials said, though there’s no evidence any of the five men arrested had gang connections.
An 11-year veteran of the police force, Lam acted as the gaming room bouncer, prosecutors alleged. The others arrested included the alleged owner of the facility, a manager and other game-room workers.
“The officer decided who could get through the door to gamble,” District Attorney Kim Ogg said Friday. “He is a prolific gambler and he gambled away his career.”
He does not appear to have an attorney yet, but is due back in court Friday, according to court records.
Including the five latest charges, the overall operation has now netted 41 arrests, including two other police officers. Authorities have seized $2.4 million in cash throughout the multi-year undertaking.