An East Dallas Gambling Queen's Big Payoff

An East Dallas Gambling Queen's Big Payoff

On a weekday afternoon in mid-June, Minh Tran guides a late-model Infiniti through Northeast Dallas, checking in on his old haunts. The strip club on an otherwise semi-industrial stretch of Plano Road, unmarked save for its gaudy rows of palm trees, was a magnet for robberies and violence. The apartments on Hunnicutt Road, a few miles to the south, he remembers as a hotbed of iniquity. Exiting LBJ Freeway, he nods to a seedy-looking apartment complex on Ferguson Road. "This one here — prostitutes all the time."

Tran is a slim but sturdy 62-year-old with wispy, jet black hair framing a round face. He exists in a state of perpetual exuberance, animated by the restless energy of a person half his age, on his fourth cup of coffee. His morning workouts — a tightly packed hour-and-a-half of swimming, running, pull ups (palms in and palms out), crunches, more running and sauna — keep him visibly fit.

That energy propelled him through an unlikely seven-year stint in law enforcement. He was on the tail end of a long and comparatively lucrative career in the tech industry when the 9/11 terrorist attacks persuaded him to trade in his $90,000-per-year job as the Houston-based vice president of a computer software firm for the promise of $33,000 a year and a police badge.

Tran, 49 then, was too old for his hometown Houston Police Department, which had an age limit of 35 for recruits. Dallas PD had no such age limit; recruiters were more interested in how many pull ups he could do. He went on to finish second in a class of 37 recruits on his physical fitness test. His fellow cadets, most 25 years younger, jokingly called him "Grandpa Tran" as he blew past them on long-distance runs.

That energy never flagged during his seven years as a cop. One former colleague describes him as a "big-hearted, go-getting cop." Sergeant Curtis Brown, who guided Tran through a portion of his field training, agrees. Brown used to marvel at how Tran would barrel through his shifts, responding to one call after another as if it never occurred to him to take a break. Even off-duty, Tran would sometimes listen to the police scanner and show up at calls to watch and learn from more experienced colleagues.

Tran reveled in his police work. "I liked it because I liked action," he explains. It wasn't just the adrenaline rush. He enjoyed helping people, and he liked the camaraderie. Passing the interchange where Buckner Road loops up to meet Ferguson, Tran chuckles, remembering how he used to tease a colleague who would conceal himself there, waiting to pounce on traffic violators. Tran would purposefully roll through the stop sign and greet the officer with an impish grin. "Tran, you wanna fuck with me?" the officer would tease in exasperated recognition as he put away his ticket book.

Even seven years after returning to civilian life in Houston, Tran misses police work. Today, on one of his regular return trips to Dallas to visit his adult son and in-laws, he's wearing his old Dallas PD T-shirt; on another recent trip he wore his shirt from the Fraternal Order of Police, the union he joined. He has maintained close ties with Brown and two other former colleagues, and still owns a police scanner, which he occasionally turns on for old time's sake.

The only thing Tran regrets is how it ended, in a SWAT team sting orchestrated by the leader of one of Dallas' largest illegal gambling rings. The memory of being drummed out of the department and paraded before the media as an example of police corruption at its worst still stings, especially here, meandering down Ferguson Road. He slows as he crosses Lakeland Drive, gesturing toward a Walgreens on the corner. "That's where I got arrested," he says, pointing to a row of parking spaces in front of a vacant-looking strip center. "Right there."

Former Dallas police officer Minh Tran says his bribery arrest was a set-up. “I want police to know that they do wrong to me.”EXPAND
Former Dallas police officer Minh Tran says his bribery arrest was a set-up. “I want police to know that they do wrong to me.”
Daniel Kramer

Thuy Kha fidgeted nervously under the fluorescent lights of the bare-walled interrogation room. A raven-haired 39-year-old nail salon owner from Vietnam, her beauty not yet dimmed by age, she seemed bewildered by how quickly events had snowballed. The previous evening, May 20, 2008, she'd confided her troubles to a friend, who suggested she contact police. She'd met with detectives from Dallas PD's public integrity unit, the division responsible for investigating corruption by cops and government officials, for the first time that morning at a Braum's ice cream shop in Garland.

Now, less than 24 hours after reaching out to her friend, technicians were equipping her with a hidden microphone and coaching her on sounding nonchalant on the phone while luring a suspect into a sting.

Kha had spent the previous two hours describing for detectives Michael Swain and Melvin Mays a brazen case of police misconduct. A few weeks earlier, Tran had entered Fast Stop #2, a convenience store Kha had recently opened on Shiloh Road. She wasn't there, so Tran left his number. He told the clerk he was a police officer and to have Tweety (Kha's nickname) give him a call. Kha fretted over the message, worried that she was in trouble. "Sorry, did I do something wrong?" she asked Tran when she called, but he reassured her that he just wanted to talk. He suggested they meet in the Walgreens parking lot at Lakeland Road and Ferguson. She pulled into the lot at about 7 p.m., unsure of what she was looking for. She'd never met Tran and half expected him to be in a squad car, but he pulled up instead in a silver sedan. He parked beside her and motioned for her to get into his passenger seat.

They made small talk for a while before Tran circled around to the purpose of the meeting. "You're Vietnamese, I'm Vietnamese," he explained. Because of that, he was going to do her a favor. "There's a black policeman that patrols at nighttime," he warned. This cop was a veteran who'd been working the Shiloh Road beat for years, demanding patronage from local businesses. He'd heard that Fast Stop #2 had illegal gambling machines — eight-liners — and had sent Tran to her to deliver a message: Pay $400 per week in protection money or risk being shut down.

Frightened, Kha agreed. She arranged to meet Tran every Friday at 7 p.m. in the parking lot of the Lakeland Walgreens. If she wanted to talk in the meantime, she should call his cell phone, first dialing *67 to block her number. He wouldn't answer, but would call back promptly. She should never leave a message, he advised her. As she saved his number to her phone under his first name, "Minh," he stopped her. "Let's not do that," he said. "People are going to know." He suggested filing it under "MP."

The following Friday, Kha showed up at the appointed time. She got into Tran's passenger seat and handed him a stack of $20 bills. "This is not for me, this is for the black guy," he reminded her, stuffing it in the driver's door pocket. He barely glanced at the money. He seemed more interested in conversation. He told her about his job and how he split his time between Dallas, where he worked four days a week, and Houston, where he'd return after his final shift of the week to spend three days with his wife. He asked after Kha, her business, her family. After about 20 minutes, Kha returned to her car and left.

The meetings became increasingly awkward, Kha told police in the interrogation room. In his car the following Friday, Tran seemed reluctant to let her go. He touched her gently on the arm and asked for a kiss. "He kiss me on the cheek many times," Kha told the detectives. "He give me a couple of hugs — he always hugs me."

The third week, she continued, he instructed her to bring the money to his apartment. Kha couldn't find the complex, which sat at the dead-end of a tiny street that intersects Ferguson. She called Tran, who told her to look for a bank on the corner where he'd be standing to flag her down. Inside, Tran took the cash and disappeared briefly into a back room. Kha glanced around the apartment. The unit was leased by Tran's sister-in-law, who was staying with relatives in Garland, and it had the feel of an elderly widow's living space, clean but crammed with pictures and knick-knacks. A portrait on the wall showed the woman and her husband, decked out in an ornate police uniform, from before the fall of Saigon and their flight from Vietnam. Again, Tran seemed eager to persuade her to stay. "He just talk," Kha told detectives. "He tells me crazy stories. Kind of police stories, [but] not really police stories. Everything has sex in there, and I just don't like it." He also told her that if any Vietnamese people gave her trouble, she should tell them that he was her boyfriend. Kha eventually managed to excuse herself and leave.

Tran called her the next week and told her to meet him outside the Super Mercado Monterrey, a grocery store at Ferguson and Shiloh that was in his patrol area, Kha recalled in the interrogation room, but she balked. It was after 8 p.m. and already dark. "Let's not meet over there. It's scary. There's a bar there," she pleaded, but Tran insisted. He was waiting in his squad car but got out when she arrived. Their conversation was brief. He said a young Hispanic cop, an officer Delgado, also had begun demanding protection payments. To stay in business she'd have to increase her weekly payments to $550. Kha protested. She was having trouble enough paying $400. Squeezing another $150 per week from her struggling convenience store was impossible. Over the squawk of his police radio, Tran refused to budge.

Kha told officers she skipped their next appointed meeting and the one after that, and she stopped answering Tran's calls, hoping he would go away. He didn't. At about 2:45 p.m. on May 20, the day before Kha found herself in police headquarters, Tran showed up at Fast Stop #2 for a second time, demanding to see Tweety. When the clerk said she wasn't there, Tran walked out of the store and returned with his police badge and an ultimatum: She'd better pay up or go to jail. The clerk gave a similar account when he was interviewed several weeks later.

Kha went to police instead. She didn't have any evidence of the payments, but Mays and Swain, the detectives, found her credible despite her admission during their interview that Fast Stop #2 was home to eight-liner gambling machines.

Swain and Mays wasted little time. The video of the interview shows the detectives leaving Kha in the interrogation room at about 1:30 p.m. When they return 45 minutes later, Swain announces that they are "setting up a tactical plan."

The basics were straightforward. Kha, equipped with a wire, would meet Tran in the Walgreens parking lot. Undercover officers would be stationed nearby, watching and listening as Kha got in his car and gave him the money, $1,100 in marked bills. Once she was safely out of the way, uniformed officers would swoop in to make the arrest.

First, though, Kha had to set up the meet. On the video, she seems reluctant. She hadn't spoken to Tran in more than two weeks but knew he was "very, very desperate" for money. She feared he'd want to meet right away rather than at 7 p.m., which wouldn't give the SWAT team time to get in position. Swain gently prodded Kha along. "We want to get this over with, get this guy out of your hair, that's all," he told her. Maybe she could say that she had to stop by Fast Stop to pick up her money, he suggested. Blame her two-week silence on a sick kid.

"I'm scared he don't believe me. I'm scared he change the time," she quavered.

Swain urged calm. "Take a deep breath," he said. "You ready?"

Fast Stop #2 occupies a dingy strip center bookended by a Vietnamese restaurant and Vietnamese Baptist church. From the outside, in 2008, it looked like an ordinary convenience store, its plate-glass windows plastered floor to ceiling with advertisements for soft drinks and discount cigarettes. Otherwise, however, it displayed a curious notion of convenience. The front door was locked to outsiders, save for those who won approval after standing before a surveillance camera trained at the front door. Inside, there was little evidence of commerce beyond a glass display case lightly stocked with batteries, a few other knick-knacks and a non-functioning cash register.

In their interview with Kha, Swain and Mays, focused on building a corruption case, showed little interest in the presence of eight-liners. When Kha mentioned in passing that Tran had threatened to report her to the vice squad for keeping "games" in the store, Swain interrupted her.

"What kind of games?" he asked.

"Just, you know, slot machines [for] store credit. We put 'merchandise only.' You win, like, $5, you can get a Coke or chips, or maybe napkins or toilet paper. Something like that."

Satisfied, Swain moved on.

Tran knew otherwise. He had first learned of Kha a couple of months earlier at Dallas' St. Peter Vietnamese Catholic Church, where he was a member. Several of his fellow parishioners had pulled him aside and told him that a woman named Tweety was operating a gambling parlor behind her convenience store and that their husbands were blowing time and money they should have been spending on family. They knew Tran was a cop and asked him to intervene.

He knew the type of operation they were talking about. Game rooms — essentially mini-casinos, stripped of even pretend glamor and stuffed into cheerless rooms in dilapidated strip centers — are ubiquitous in Texas. Their legally dubious nature makes hard numbers hard to come by. The best guess comes from a 2004 study commissioned by the Texas Lottery Commission, in which University of Texas researchers estimated that 75,000 eight-liners, similar to slot machines, were operating in Texas at the time, with revenues of about $2.7 billion. The industry had been growing since 1993 when the Texas Legislature passed what became known as the "fuzzy animal law," which carved out an exception in the state's previously straightforward gambling ban, allowing machines that dispense "noncash merchandise prizes, toys or novelties" valued at $5 or less. Ostensibly aimed at Chuck E. Cheese-style kids' games, the legislation also opened a loophole for eight-liner operators. The loophole was partially closed when the Texas Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that the $5 Walmart gift cards handed out to winning players at a Burleson eight-liner parlor were the legal equivalent of cash, therefore rendering such operations illegal.

In Dallas, the crackdown on illegal game rooms peaked during the administration of District Attorney Bill Hill, who would preen for the media at game-room raids initiated by his office. In 2001 his office prosecuted 91 people on misdemeanor charges of gambling promotion or keeping a gambling place, cases that mostly involved game rooms. By 2008, when Kha was setting up the meeting with Tran, the number of prosecutions was in permanent decline. Messina Madson, DA Susan Hawk's top lieutenant, says police still conduct raids on illegal gambling parlors but typically seize the machines without filing criminal cases, which can drag on for years with little payoff. Defense attorney Pete Schulte says eight-liner cases are almost always pleaded down to a charge of gambling, a class C misdemeanor with all the legal consequence of a traffic ticket. "The return you get prosecuting these really isn't worth the effort," he says. Not that seizing machines is much more effective. Police often raid the same location on multiple occasions, records show, clearing a parlor of eight-liners only to find it filled with new ones six months later. This is a matter of basic economics. Each machine costs around $2,000, an investment it can recoup in a matter of days at a busy game room.

Tran says he approached Kha out of concern she was profiting off hard-working Vietnamese immigrants who couldn't afford to throw their money away on eight-liners. "I will give you a warning because you are Vietnamese," he told her. "If you were American I wouldn't say nothing, but you are my race ... Just take your business somewhere else."

Tran admits visiting Fast Stop #2 around the beginning of April 2008, as Kha said. The rest of the story Kha spun for police, he says, was a malicious lie. He never visited Fast Stop #2 a second time, never flashed his badge, never invited Kha to his apartment and never tried to do anything romantic. "I can't believe she say I kiss and hug her!" Tran says now, throwing up his hands at the absurdity of it. "What?!? She know I'm married!"

And Tran says he certainly never asked for any bribes. Kha tried to give him money, but he refused. "I got my career on the line," he reminded her. In Tran's version of the story, Kha senses police are closing in on her game room. Hoping to throw them off the scent, she twists Tran's friendly overtures into a lurid tale of coercion.

Dallas PD's vice squad would zero in on Fast Stop #2 without Tran's assistance. On November 24, 2008, six months after Kha contacted police, her boyfriend, Duc "Andy" Nguyen, unwittingly led an undercover detective behind the glass display case and through a door to a back room. The cop picked a video blackjack game and made a $1.50 wager. He won $7.50 on his first play, then quickly burned through the winnings and $40 he'd arrived with. His return trip was more successful, his original $10 mushrooming to $30 by the time he cashed out. In January a team of officers raided the business, hauling away 15 gambling machines, a 9mm pistol and almost $5,000 in cash. Kha was arrested and charged with keeping a gambling place, which carries as much as a year in jail. After agreeing to forfeit her claim to the cash and gambling machines, the charge was knocked down to simple gambling.

Seven years after taking down Tran on bribery charges, Thuy “Tweety” Kha and her boyfriend Duc “Andy” Nguyen were accused of running a massive eight-liner ring in East Dallas.EXPAND
Seven years after taking down Tran on bribery charges, Thuy “Tweety” Kha and her boyfriend Duc “Andy” Nguyen were accused of running a massive eight-liner ring in East Dallas.
Dallas County Sheriff's Office

"Hello, Anh Minh? This is Thuy." The quaver was gone from Kha's voice now that she was on the phone with Tran, replaced by studied nonchalance. Swain and Mays watched on, uncomprehending. The conversation, in Vietnamese, was being recorded for later translation.

Tran was groggy. He'd just returned from Washington, D.C., where he was representing Dallas' Fraternal Order of Police chapter at a national law-enforcement conference, and was readjusting to his normal schedule of sleeping through mid-afternoon to be rested for the night shift.

Kha apologized for her two-week silence. "Sorry, my kid's been sick for the past few week ... She just got out of the hospital yesterday," she lied. "Can I meet you later?"

Tran said he first had to go replace his phone, which had been malfunctioning, but he should be able to make it to the Walgreens parking lot by 7 p.m. "When you come, call me," he told her.

"OK," she confirmed, "Before I leave I will call you."

Kha left the police station with Swain and Mays and showed detectives where she would park her Mercedes. They told her to be in position by the time Tran showed up. Otherwise he might position himself in a different part of the parking lot, forcing officers to change their tactical plan on the fly.

Tran arrived just after 7 p.m. and pulled in next to Kha. She walked to his car and sat down in his passenger seat. "Is your daughter OK now?" Tran asked, making small talk.

"Yes, very healthy, thank you."

"They haven't fixed the phone. Sometimes I can call, and sometimes I can't."

Kha produced the $1,100 from her purse. "Here is the money."

"This is for?" Tran asked.

Seven years later, Tran remembers recoiling from the stack of bills. "She came in and just dropped it into the console ... I say 'What for?'" Then, "Bam, they arrest me right there."

That account omits key details that were captured by video and audio surveillance. "The black guy is asking for a lot of money," Kha said. "Can you ask him to reduce the amount?"

On the recording Tran promised to ask, but he's doubtful. Delgado, the Hispanic officer who'd recently begun demanding a cut, might give her a pass. "He is easygoing. He's a young guy. I tell him sometimes you have the money, and sometimes you don't ... The black guy is hard to talk to," he said, adding,"He is very mean."

Tran told Kha to wait. He got out of the car and returned with a duffel bag. "Here is the Taser I bought for you." He waved off her protest that she didn't bring any extra money; she could pay him later.

By the end of their conversation, Tran was almost optimistic. If he could introduce the black cop to a girl, then maybe he could get him off her case. "Don't worry about it, worry about your family," Tran told her. "Your family is more important."

Detectives would find no evidence that the black officer Tran referenced exists. They did locate an officer Delgado in Tran's division, but he described Tran as a passing acquaintance and said he knew nothing about any protection payments. Today, Tran contends, rather unconvincingly, that he was merely following Kha's lead, playing along with her fabricated story to gather evidence of her attempted bribe. He does not remember giving her the Taser.

A few minutes after being presented with the Taser, Kha can be seen stepping out of the car. She turned back, smiled and gave Tran a friendly wave. He opened his door and stood up as she walked around to her car. He wore athletic shorts and a baggy T-shirt, his military-style buzz-cut in need of a trim. He glanced up at an unmarked white van doglegging its way across an empty expanse of parking lot, deemed it unremarkable and turned away.

Seconds later, the air was rent by an ear-splitting blast — a flashbang grenade — and Tran was coughing at a rapidly dissipating cloud of dark smoke. Dallas SWAT officers poured from the white van like angry, heavily armored fire ants. Tran meekly put his hands up as officers shoved him against his car for a rough pat-down, then held him face-down on the asphalt while the handcuffs clicked shut.

Minutes later Dallas PD alerted the media via a press release that they had arrested Tran for taking bribes from a Vietnamese family "in exchange for not reporting potential violations of gambling laws." Speaking with reporters, police Chief David Kunkle described Tran's actions as "the worst kind of misconduct."

"I don't know of any worse type of behavior that our officers can engage in, particularly our officers that are helping to serve an immigrant community who in many cases have a basic distrust in law enforcement."

Police, records indicate, made no immediate attempt to follow up on the potential gambling violations. Dallas PD declined to comment for this story. Kunkle, who retired from the department in 2010, says he couldn't recall the details of the case but that, generally speaking, a public official accepting a bribe is more of a concern than the person offering the bribe.

Back at police headquarters for a follow-up interview following Tran's arrest, Kha worried about her safety. "In my country if you send one of the big people to jail, you going to jail too, or they're going to come and kill you."

Swain reassured her. "Our police department's a lot different from over there. We don't like officers like that on our department because they make us look bad."

On a Thursday in late July 2014, a Dallas vice detective pulled up to Kha's turreted McMansion in Grand Prairie, stepped out of his car and picked up a bag of garbage. Rifling through the contents, he pulled out a sheet of paper filled with handwritten names and dollar amounts. He recognized it immediately as a game-room sign-in sheet.

Following her arrest after the 2008 Fast Stop #2 raid, Kha had fallen off of law enforcement's radar, but police had recently begun circling again. For years the vice squad had taken a reactive approach to gambling parlors in Far East Dallas. When they became aware of one, a detective would go undercover, play a few games of blackjack or keno and obtain a search warrant based on his observations. A small raid would follow, and police would haul away the gambling machines for eventual destruction. The approach was utterly ineffective. The game rooms would be stocked with new machines and reopen almost as soon as the officers had left. Police raided one location four times between 2011 and 2014, never to any lasting effect. It was like a game of whack-a-mole, except that it was the same mole popping through the same hole.

In March 2014, police changed tack and launched an investigation targeting the game-room owners. They began to home in on Kha on April 29 when a detective spotted her at a game room where the officer was playing "Spin Jack 21." The game room sat behind a vacant-looking storefront next to the Island Club bar on Ferguson Road. Talking with police six years earlier, Kha had expressed an acute fear of the shopping center, but she looked quite comfortable now as she moved from machine to machine collecting money. The detective stepped outside in time to note the license plate on Kha's departing Mercedes Benz.

Police began tailing Kha and her live-in boyfriend, Nguyen, who appeared to be helping manage the game rooms. It was tedious work. On May 16, officers followed her to a Garland Braum's where she "purchased several bags of groceries," according to their observations. On May 29, they conducted the first of several trash runs at Kha's house; their most interesting find was a receipt for three metal-detecting wands. On June 6, a detective monitoring the home photographed a gambling machine sitting in their open garage. On June 9, they followed Kha and Nguyen to Lone Star Slots, which does a brisk trade in gambling machines but makes customers sign a document swearing to use the devices for "home entertainment purposes" only.

Tracking the couple became considerably easier on June 10, when officers placed a GPS device on Nguyen's Nissan Frontier. The data showed Kha and Nguyen taking roughly the same route every day. In the morning they would visit six suspected game rooms: three by the Island Club on Ferguson; two more on Easton Road just west of Garland Road; one disguised as "A's 99-Cent Mart" on Columbia Avenue. They would return home to Grand Prairie in the late afternoon, then go back to the game rooms on Ferguson Road to finish out the night.

The surveillance culminated in a January 14, 2015, raid on all six of the gambling parlors as well as the Grand Prairie McMansion. All told, cops seized 193 gambling devices. A partial analysis revealed an astonishingly lucrative business. Forensic investigators analyzed 37 of the devices — less than a fifth — for the period between August 1, 2014, and January 14. During those five-and-a-half months, the devices recorded $2.8 million in wagers. Subtracting payouts, the machines collected $1.1 million in profit.

That data helped explain some of the other things investigators found. Receipts and other records revealed that Kha had a taste for luxury, including a $12,628 Rolex watch, $21,000-plus in home electronics and more than $13,000 in merchandise from Neiman Marcus and the Gucci and Louis Vuitton stores, all paid for with cash. Nguyen's Nissan Frontier was also purchased with cash — 272 $100 bills and one $20. In addition, police recovered $695,000 cash and 4.6 pounds of gold bars, currently worth about $80,000, from the couple's home and safety deposit boxes.

Kha's personal income tax returns certainly couldn't explain the bounty. Her primary source of income was Lucky Nails, the Lancaster nail salon she's owned for two decades. In 2013 the business saw a record profit of $43,319. The previous four years it had hovered between $25,000 and $30,000. For a few years she also owned the Wings World restaurant next door to Lucky Nails, but it was essentially a break-even enterprise. With two college-age children and her elderly father listed as dependents, she qualified for the earned income tax credit, a tax break designed to help the working poor, and paid no taxes before 2013.

Kha's father was apparently oblivious to his daughter's trove of riches. Interviewed at the family's Grand Prairie home, he told police that, as far as he knew, the nail salon was Kha's only source of income. He also mentioned that she charged him $430 per month in rent, which ate up most of his $730 social security check.

Tran's mugshot was splashed across local media following his arrest. "I was shocked," says Brown, his former field training officer. "I didn't believe it for a second." For Brown, it was more confirmation of what he had always suspected: Tran was simply too nice to survive DPD.

Tran was indicted for bribery. His bond was initially set at $250,000, an amount typically reserved for violent criminals and sex offenders. He spent almost a month in jail before his attorney was able to negotiate it down to $25,000. Tran maintains his innocence despite the damning video evidence (he provided DVDs to the Observer), but he agreed to a period of deferred probation on the advice of his attorney. He was released from court supervision and his case was formally dismissed in 2012.

Still, even without a conviction on his record, he's struggled to re-enter the workforce. His law enforcement career is over, and his attempts to break back into the tech industry after a decade-long absence have been unsuccessful. He landed a job with a credit card processing company after moving back to Houston three years ago, but his salary was half what it had been when he was a cop, and he found his boss overbearing and incompetent. Last summer he took a job with Farmers Insurance teaching defensive driving. He hoped to become a Farmers agent and passed state-mandated exams for selling property-and-casualty and life-and-health insurance, but his application was denied by the Texas Department of Insurance because of the bribery case. Tran recently filed an appeal.

Driving around his old patrol area in Far East Dallas, Tran oscillates between magnanimity and bitterness. "I pray to God, I forgive her," he declares, but a few minutes later he's brooding. "She hurt a lot of people. I'm not hurt for me, but people going to her business. They work hard, now they lose all their money."

Tran feels partially vindicated by the raids on Kha's game rooms and her subsequent arrest. She is charged with money laundering and engaging in organized criminal activity, both felonies. (Neither she nor her attorneys responded to requests for an interview. In court filings she argues that police lacked probable cause for multiple searches, rendering them unconstitutional.) "My wife says 'Minh, let it go,'" Tran says, but he can't. "I want the police to know that they do wrong to me."


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