PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Several more people now face criminal charges in the killings of two brothers whose bound bodies were found in a Philadelphia river almost six years ago, federal prosecutors said Monday.
Tam Minh Le, a native of Vietnam, was earlier sentenced to death in the August 2014 murders of 31-year-old Vu "Kevin" Huynh and his 28-year-old brother Viet.
Prosecutors alleged that Tam Minh Le tortured and stabbed them and another man over a $300,000 drug debt, then dumped them into the Schuylkill (SKOO'-kul) River, their faces covered with duct tape and their legs weighted down with cement. The third man survived.
Authorities have since alleged that 48-year-old Lam Trieu originally ordered the kidnapping of the brothers. Lam Trieu, whom authorities described in a detention order as a “gangster and drug dealer" from New York with a lengthy criminal record, faces trial in June on conspiracy, extortion, and drug and racketeering counts.
Prosecutors stressed that Lam Trieu didn't order the murders but note that “when one sends three goons to collect a $300,000 drug debt, it is reasonably foreseeable that events can go off track and someone can be seriously hurt or killed."
And although Lam Trieu was reportedly upset about the killings “because dead drug dealers do not pay drug debts," prosecutors allege in the detention order that he ordered some of his co-defendants to return to Philadelphia and execute the surviving man “to prevent him from being a witness."
Three other men accused of having helped Le face kidnapping, racketeering, extortion and conspiracy counts; a fourth is alleged to have acted as a lookout. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that a sixth man, Hai Nguyen, 37, pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to FBI agents about helping Le escape to upstate New York.
All are in custody save one defendant the FBI believes to have fled to Vietnam; a $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to arrest.
Lam Trieu’s attorney, Paul Lieber, declined to comment.