Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
FORMER FUGITIVE FEATURED ON “AMERICA’S MOST WANTED” SENTENCED TO 55 YEARS TO LIFE IN PRISON FOR 2005 MURDER OF MAN OUTSIDE STANTON BAR
SANTA ANA – A former fugitive featured on “America’s Most Wanted” was sentenced today to 55 years to life in state prison for murdering a man in 2005 by shooting him several times outside of a bar after attacking him with a belt. Cuong Viet Nguyen, 29, formerly of Garden Grove, was found guilty by a jury March 24, 2010, of one felony count of murder with a sentencing enhancement for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death. The defendant has a prior strike conviction from 1998 for robbery.
On June 26, 2005, Nguyen went with a group of friends to All Star Bar in Stanton and got into a fight inside the bar with another group of men, including victim Tri Van Bui. The bouncers instructed Bui’s group to leave the bar.
Nguyen and an unknown friend waited outside of the bar for Bui. After the victim had finished speaking with a bouncer, the defendant and his friend chased and caught the victim, removed their belts and repeatedly hit him in the head using the buckle. When Bui was on the ground, Nguyen pulled out a firearm and murdered the victim by shooting him six times.
Nguyen fled the scene. A warrant was issued for his arrest in 2006. In the spring of 2008, the defendant was featured on the television program “America’s Most Wanted.” A tip received from a viewer who recognized Nguyen from the show led investigators to Phoenix, where Nguyen was located and arrested in June 2008. The defendant was brought back to Orange County from Arizona on June 18, 2008, to face charges.
During the sentencing today, a victim impact letter from the Bui’s wife, Linh Lam, was read to the court. In the letter, Lam explains, “Tri was vibrant, brilliant and always willing to help others. He was full of life. Family meant everything to him. My pain and suffering will never end. I wish I could turn back time – wish my companion, my love, my husband, my daughters’ father was still here with us.”
Senior Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.