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Four gang members convicted in 1995 slaying

Men face life in prison without parole for killing a fellow gang member, whose body they left in a van on the freeway.

April 10, 2012|By Lauren Williams

Members of a Vietnamese street gang were convicted Tuesday in a 1995 cold-case slaying in Costa Mesa, authorities said.

The four men — Anthony Paul Johnson Jr., 35, of Westminster; Giang Thuy Nguyen, 36, of Fountain Valley; Tam Hung Nguyen, 36, of Riverside; and Truc Ngoc Tran, 34, of Santa Ana — were found guilty of one felony count of murder and one felony count of conspiracy to commit murder, with sentencing enhancements for lying in wait and committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang, according to the Orange County district attorney's office.

The men plotted to kill fellow gang member Viet Nguyen as retaliation for his abandoning other gang members during a home invasion robbery on Feb. 24, 1995, in Huntington Beach, prosecutors said. Viet Nguyen, 18, feared the victim, a high school classmate, would identify him.

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Later that night, the other gang members decided to kill Viet Nguyen, the D.A.'s office said, because they feared he might implicate them in the robbery.

The following day, Johnson and Giang Nguyen convinced Viet Nguyen to take Tam Nguyen to buy drugs in his van. The other gang members followed the two in another car, prosecutors said.

Tam Nguyen directed Viet Nguyen to drive to different locations across the county under the ruse of searching for drugs, according to the D.A.'s office. At one point while driving on the Corona del Mar (73) Freeway, Tam Nguyen faked being sick and asked Viet Nguyen to pull over, prosecutors said.

When Viet Nguyen did so, Tam Nguyen shot him in the back of the head and left his body behind in the van.

To avoid retribution from other gang members, the men said Viet Nguyen was killed by a Costa Mesa drug dealer, the D.A.'s office said.

Costa Mesa police reopened the case in 2006.

The four men face life in state prison without the possibility of parole. Their sentencing is scheduled for June 8.

lauren.williams@latimes.com

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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