Kingpin Who Bribed Police to Protect Illegal California Casinos No-Shows Sentencing

  • Niem Ngoc Ha did not show up to federal court in Santa Ana on Monday
  • Ha was head of a gang running illegal casinos out of strip malls, private homes
  • He also paid cash bribes to now-convicted, ex-police officer Steven Lopez
Empty chair in courtroom
The man behind an illegal casino network in California was a no-show at his federal court sentencing. [Image:]

The man who pleaded guilty to paying around $128,000 to an ex-Santa Ana police officer to help protect his illegal California casinos from law enforcement has failed to turn up to his federal court sentencing.

conflicting stories that Ha was in custody somewhere

Niem Ngoc Ha, 48, did not show up to federal court in Santa Ana on Monday. US District Judge David O. Carter said he had heard conflicting stories that Ha was in custody somewhere, but it was unclear where. Orange County Asian Organized Crime Task Force arrested Ha and six others in May 2022.

My News LA cited Assistant US Attorney Benjamin Lichtman referencing court papers that Ha was the head of “an illegal gambling conspiracy involving illicit casinos that operated at commercial strip malls and private residences in Orange County.”

To make this crime worse, the Fountain Valley man paid cash bribes to the now-convicted, former police officer Steven Lopez. The bribes were “an attempt to prevent law enforcement from conducting searches and seizures and shutting down defendant’s illegal businesses.”

Federal prosecutors had proposed a 70-month sentence for the man nicknamed “Dung Body” and were also seeking a forfeiture order of $1.4m. Prosecutors added that Ha, who had “posted bail and was free,” had made payments of $238,257 and $625,000.

Ha pleaded guilty to his crimes in October 2022.

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