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Ten accused of conspiring to oust government of Laos

By Denny Walsh - Bee Staff Writer

Last Updated 6:34 am PDT Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Story appeared in MAIN NEWS section, Page A1

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Ten men -- including a prominent Hmong general who commanded CIA operatives fighting communists during the Vietnam War -- were charged in Sacramento federal court Monday with plotting to overthrow the government of Laos.

The men, who also include Harrison Ulrich Jack -- a 1968 West Point graduate and retired Army infantry officer from Woodland -- allegedly conspired to obtain scores of AK-47 assault rifles, ground-to-air Stinger missiles, anti-tank weapons, mines, rockets, explosives and smoke grenades with which to oust the Laotian communist regime.

One of the defendants, Vang Pao, was described Monday at a news conference by Michael Sullivan, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as "the leader of the Hmong expatriate community in the United States."

Vang, 77, of Orange County, is accused with the nine others -- including a man from Sacramento and another from Rancho Cordova -- of violating the federal Neutrality Act by plotting on American soil to invade a foreign country with which the United States is at peace.

Vang and other Hmong leaders "formed a committee to evaluate the feasibility of conducting a military expedition ... to engage in the overthrow of the existing government of Laos by violent means, including murder, assaults on both military and civilian officials of Laos and destruction of buildings and property of Laos," according to a criminal complaint unsealed Monday.

It says that Vang and the other Hmong leaders engaged in extensive, nationwide fundraising to underwrite their venture, which was meant to oust the communist regime.

None of the suspects has entered a plea, but Sacramento-area Hmong leaders said they knew nothing of such a plot or efforts to raise funds for it.

The complaint contains a statement by one of the defendants that he arranged for a team of special operations mercenaries to go into Laos and blow up several government buildings, including the country's Royal Palace.

"This investigation read like a movie script but turned out to be reality," Sullivan said. "The individuals arrested today thought an arms dealer would provide the necessary weapons and personnel to assist them in the violent overthrow of another government.

"An undercover ATF agent led them to believe he could fulfill their needs. Fortunately, we were able to disrupt their activities before their plot evolved into a coup against a country with which the United States is at peace."

Harrison Jack, 60, the Woodland veteran who was released from active duty in the Army in 1977 and later retired as a lieutenant colonel from the California National Guard, approached defense contractors seeking arms for the invasion, and some of the suspects sought out former Army Special Forces and Navy SEALs veterans to act as mercenaries in the assault on Laos, according to the complaint.

The complaint charges that since January the suspects had inspected a wide array of weapons. They purchased "an initial installment of 125 AK-47 machine guns, 20,000 rounds of ammunition, and crates of smoke grenades for ... $100,000, to be delivered in Bangkok, Thailand, on June 12," the complaint says.

A $50,000 payment was to be made June 11, with the balance handed over the next day, when the shipment was to be received at a location in Thailand near the Laotian border.

The complaint says the defendants also had arranged to pay a third installment of $50,000 on June 12 as the first half of the payment for a June 19 delivery that was scheduled to include a number of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.

Jack met with the undercover ATF agent several times to discuss weapons procurement, and his Hmong backers had budgeted $9.8 million for arms, the complaint alleges. The money was to come from "contributions from community leaders through the (Hmong) clan leadership."

Various discussions among the suspects and the undercover ATF agent took place at Sacramento-area taverns and restaurants, DoubleTree and Hilton hotels in the capital and the parking lot of a Kmart hear Highway 99 in Stockton, the complaint says.

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About the writer:

  • The Bee's Denny Walsh can be reached at (916) 321-1189 or dwalsh@sacbee.com. Bee staff writers Stephen Magagnini, Ryan Lillis and Christina Jewett and researcher Sheila A. Kern contributed to this report.

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DOCUMENTS

Read the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento


DETAILS OF THE ALLEGED PLOT

Federal authorities in Sacramento charge 10 men with conspiring to overthrow the government of Laos. The alleged plot included:

• Plans to pay $50,000 on Monday in Bangkok, Thailand, then another $50,000 Tuesday near its border with Laos for 125 AK-47s, 20,000 rounds of ammunition and crates of smoke grenades.

• Payment of another $50,000 for Stinger missiles to be delivered June 19 to use against Laotian helicopters.

• A munitions budget of up to $9.8 million to be provided by Hmong community leaders and clans.

• Targeting of military and civilian buildings in the capital, Vientiane, to be destroyed, with intelligence from operatives inside Laos.

• Hiring of mercenaries who are former Army Special Forces or Navy SEALs.


WHO AND WHERE

The 10 suspects charged in the alleged plot against Laos:

• Harrison Jack, 60, of Woodland.

• Lo Thao, 53, of Sacramento.

• Nhia Kao Vang, no age available, of Rancho Cordova.

• Vang Pao, 77, of Westminster, Orange County.

• Lo Cha Thao, 34, of Clovis, Fresno County.

• Youa True Vang, 60, of Sanger, Fresno County.

• Hue Vang, 39, of Fresno.

• Chong Vang Thao, 53, of Fresno.

• Seng Vue, 68, of Fresno.

• Chu Lo, 59, of Stockton.



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