“Kill him dead.”
The message relayed via a March 2 phone call between Long Van Nguyen and an undercover agent for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security made clear what the 44-year-old University Place man wanted, according to the federal government.
Nguyen allegedly wanted to hire the agent to assassinate a man in Vietnam. Over the next four months, federal prosecutors allege, Nguyen would formulate a plan that would result in the plotted killings of seven people at $5,000 to $6,000 a head. They include:
- “Ly”: A man who owned a noodle restaurant in the Long Khanh Province of Vietnam. Nguyen allegedly instructed the assassin to leave Ly’s body where it could be discovered.
- “Thuy”: A woman in her mid-40’s who also lived in Long Khanh Province. Nguyen instructed the assassins to conduct the hit at her home, along with two other adults. Do not kill the children in the house, he allegedly instructed.
- "Bon": Nguyen's nephew whom the suspect wanted dead first. Federal investigators learned that Nguyen, a convicted marijuana trafficker, had sent his nephew $100,000 for safe keeping if he was ever arrested again. Eventually, the nephew began the spending the money.
Investigators brought federal charges against Nguyen in U.S. District Court in Seattle last week. He faces one count of Conspiracy to Kill Persons in a Foreign Country, as well as Solicitation to Commit a Crime of Violence.
Nguyen is now in federal custody.
Court papers detail how the undercover agent – a Vietnamese speaker who was assigned to Homeland Security’s Narcotics Smuggling Group in Seattle – strung Nguyen along far enough to build the federal government’s case.
Special Agent-UC and Nguyen
On March 1, the undercover agent – identified in court papers as “Special Agent-UC” – learned from a source that Nguyen was allegedly looking for an assassin to carry out a murder in Vietnam.
Nguyen had a criminal history. He was convicted of smuggling marijuana in 2005. The undercover agent had been involved with that investigation and ”had listed to numerous recorded conversations with the suspect that lead to Nguyen’s arrest,” according to court papers.
The suspect – who is of Vietnamese descent and is 5-foot-3-inches tall, 140 pounds - was released from prison in 2010 and was under the supervision of the U.S. District Court’s probation office.
The agent learned from the source that since Nguyen’s release, he had visited various businesses in Tacoma to wire about $100,000 to his nephew in Vietnam.
The source told the agent that Nguyen had sent between $5,000 and $21,000 each time to his nephew, who was supposed to deposit the money “into a Vietnamese bank account for safe keeping” in the event the suspect was ever arrested again, documents state.
But Nguyen’s nephew began spending the money instead of depositing it, so the suspect wanted him dead, the source said. Nguyen also had expressed a desire to kill others in Vietnam.
The source said Nguyen had paid someone else 100 million in Vietnamese currency for an assassination in that country, but the assassins took the money without conducting the hit.
Special Agent-UC told the source to have Nguyen contact him.
The first call
Special Agent-UC and Nguyen spoke in Vietnamese during their initial conversation the next day.
“I want him to be finished, not hurt or injured,” Nguyen told the agent, who had recognized the suspect’s voice from the investigation eight years prior.
“Kill him dead,” Nguyen allegedly stated, adding that he wanted the body found or to be “put in the newspaper.”
They spoke again the next day and agreed on a price of $5,500 for the contract killing, according to court papers. Nguyen agreed to supply pictures of the target and stated that he might have other business for the agent.
“Dead, not just beaten”
The two spoke again a month later, and Nguyen had an additional target in mind, according to court papers.
One of the targets was “a business man” who lived in Long Khan, approximately four hours from Ho Chi Minh City via motorcycle, where he lived and owned a noodle shop.
Nguyen also stated that he wanted the assassins hired by the special agent to meet with his nephew in Vietnam.
On May 5, Nguyen revealed again that he had two people in mind for the contract killing, and they both lived in Long Khanh. He’d pay $5,000 and $6,000 respectively.
“He wanted them dead, not just beaten,” court papers state.
Nguyen gave the agent the phone number of his nephew, who only answered calls to his prepaid phone 10 minutes before and after noon every day.
They even settled on a code phrase for the first call: “I am lost, please show me the way.”
The plan was for the assassins hired by the agent and the nephew to meet in Vietnam. Nguyen wanted the first target’s body laid under the sun in public. Again, the suspect told the agent that “he had more targets to kill in the future.”
“Taking body parts, arms or legs”
On May 20, the agent got another call from Nguyen.
The agent said his people tried to contact his nephew in Vietnam.
The suspect then asked if Special Agent-UC could do other stuff.
What was the ”other stuff?” the agent replied.
“Taking body parts, arms or legs,” Nguyen allegedly said in court papers.
United States or Vietnam?
More than a week later, Nguyen’s nephew called the agent.
The nephew would be the one to show the assassins the targets in Vietnam.
What the nephew didn’t know was the agent’s hired assassin was an undercover officer with the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Safety.
By June 3, Special Agent-UC was on the phone again with Nguyen, who said the nephew had pointed out two targets to the assassin.
The first hit could come at anytime, but the second hit was prohibited without Nguyen’s orders.
“For the second target,” the suspect said in court documents, “it may come with more than one. I want you to hit them all. I will pay five (5) for each.”
After some back and forth about the price, Nguyen instructed the agent.
“Get this thing done and make it look good for me.”
The next day halfway across the globe, the undercover officer from Vietnam used a hidden recording device to capture instructions from Nguyen’s nephew.
The first target was a person known as “Ly,” a man in his 50’s who owned a noodle shop.
The second target was a woman the nephew identified as “Thuy,” and was in her mid-40’s.
The nephew told the officer that the first target could be assassinated in his restaurant or his home. The second target, however, needed to be in her home.
Whatever “fish” were in the home of the second target, court papers state, the nephew instructed the officer to take care of it.
In both cases, the assassin was instructed to take photographs of the “merchandise” after the job was completed.
The next day back in Seattle, Special Agent-UC got a call from Nguyen. He confirmed that his nephew and the assassin were forming a plan in Vietnam.
“Take the whole package,” Nguyen allegedly instructed for the assassination inside the woman’s home.
Later in the day, Nguyen called back and instructed the agent that if there were any children in the woman’s home, they shouldn't be killed. Regardless of the number, Nguyen would pay for each adult.
“Go big on the second target,” he told the agent.
Meeting at Southcenter Starbucks
Nguyen agreed to meet with one of Special Agent-UC’s “partners” June 22 at a Starbucks in the Southcenter Mall area.
Unbeknownst to the suspect, the partner was FBI Special Agent Khanh Tang, a native Vietnamese speaker who was undercover.
“S A Tang told Nguyen that his ‘homies’ reported to him that the first location (the noodle shop Target # 1) was easy, but that the second location (the home of Target # 2) was more difficult, and that his homies did not want to kill a woman, but that they would do whatever was asked of them,” according to charging documents.
At the meeting, Nguyen allegedly gave Tang $200 as a “good faith demonstration that he was serious about the deal.”
Nguyen also indicated that there was another target he wanted dead: his nephew.
“Now that his nephew had pointed out the locations of the two targets in Vietnam, it made sense for the assassins to kill his nephew first,” documents state.
“Nguyen said that after the nephew is killed, they should dump his body somewhere and should call Nguyen immediately, so that Nguyen could tell his nephew’s family where to find the body.”
By the time this month rolled around, Nguyen indicated to Special Agent-UC that the suspect had more targets in mind for assassination, according to court documents.
Nguyen sent photos of the targets to the agent. One photo depicted a group of people at a wedding.
“Nguyen told Special Agent-UC that he wanted three people in the photo, who are all brothers, assassinated,” court documents state.
Nguyen also identified his nephew, “Bon,” as one of the people he wanted dead.
(To read the full charging documents, click on the media gallery above)