Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Anh The Duong, who led armed robberies throughout the state, including two in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach.
Duong's crew, a band of jewelry thieves, had been operating since 1993, when they held up a NGY Jewelers in Santa Ana at gunpoint and made off with $500,000 worth of loose diamonds. Under his direction, the group traveled up and down California robbing banks, and jewelry and electronics stores.
Police said Duong and his men operated on a shoot-first basis. When they encountered resistance from anyone, be it a guard or bystander, they would shoot to kill. On top of their 16 armed robbery and racketeering convictions last month, the federal jury found Duong and his crew guilty of eight murders.
Only when they could disarm the guard first, like they did at Tourneau jewelry store at South Coast Plaza in September 2000, did they not shoot, police said.
In that robbery, the men took over the store and made off with 50 watches worth $592,115.
Four months later, Duong and his crew hit Traditional Jewelers at Fashion Island. Donning jackets and masks, Duong and two others took over the store, unaware that a pair of security guards in the mall had spotted them going in.
Twenty to 30 shots were exchanged between the guards and robbers. Duong's crew saw the security guards and starting shooting, with the guards returning fire through the pane-glass front. One of the guards was shot in the chest and lived. Duong's men escaped, but without any jewelry.
Costa Mesa police arrested Duong in July 2001 at a local gym. Duong is in the penalty phase of his trial, where U.S. attorneys are seeking the death penalty. He's due back in court Nov. 3.