Norcross man accused of bribing gambling investigator

NORCROSS -- A Norcross businessman is accused of bribing an investigator probing a profitable, illegal gambling operation spread across several metro Atlanta cities.

A six-month investigation culminated Saturday in the arrests of Thien Nguyen, owner of several cafes and pool halls, and his alleged co-conspirator, Duoc Van Le, of Woodstock. Le is accused of leasing illegal gaming machines to a number of businesses as part of a revenue-sharing agreement.

Authorities from several metro Atlanta jurisdictions seized 68 video gambling machines, $164,000 in cash and made 10 arrests while serving warrants on eight area businesses Saturday -- including locations in Norcross, Lilburn and Doraville, said Chamblee police Chief Marc Johnson.

The investigation began when police found $8,000 and 13 machines at a Chamblee business called May Ngan Cafe & Billiards in October, Johnson said.

Nguyen and Le repeatedly contacted an investigator in an effort to discuss the case, and went so far as to try to find his home address. Police eventually agreed to the meeting, which was taped by Chamblee police and the GBI, Johnson said.

At the meeting, Nguyen offered to pay for information regarding future gambling investigations and gave the investigator two $500 gift certificates. In seven more meetings since, the suspects bribed the investigator with a collective $11,000 in cash plus two more gift certificates, Johnson said.

Chamblee investigators and confidential informants had visited each business in question before Saturday's raids and found them to be paying illegal winnings, Johnson said.

Authorities in Gwinnett seized $30,000 in cash and poker machines Saturday in a raid at a 5495 Jimmy Carter Boulevard business managed by Nguyen called Cafe Khang, according to his arrest warrant.

Nguyen is charged with commercial gambling and five counts of bribery. His accomplice faces two counts of bribery, Johnson said.

The investigation is ongoing and the amount of seized money may swell once two safes are opened, Johnson said. Each business in question was owned by Nguyen or his wife, or was supplied machines by Le, Johnson said.

State law forbids payouts of more than $5 from electronic gaming machines. Merchandise awarded as prizes cannot exceed $5 for a single play of the game or device, the law states.

Nguyen posted bond a few hours after his arrest and was released from the Gwinnett County Jail.

The following businesses are listed as those searched Saturday:

* May Ngan Cafe & Billiards, 3240 Shallowford Road, Chamblee

* May Hong Cafe, 5150 Buford Highway Suite A 140, Doraville

* Di Vang Cafe, 4646 Buford Highway Suite C, Chamblee

* Chot Nho Billiards, 2494 Chamblee Tucker Road, Chamblee

* MTV Cafe Billiards, 4186 Buford Highway Suite A, Atlanta

* Cafe Khang, 5495 Jimmy Carter Blvd. Suite A5, Norcross

* Cafe Kinh Do, 4805 Lawrenceville Highway Suite 120, Lilburn

* ATL Billiards, 3647 Market Street, Clarkston