- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 31, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A man and woman accused of luring women from California to work as prostitutes in the western North Dakota oil patch have reached plea agreements with prosecutors.

Court documents show Loc Tran and Trina Nguyen are to plead guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Bismarck, where they had been scheduled for a nine-day trial in June on charges related to human trafficking and coercion.

Federal authorities allege Tran and Nguyen persuaded or coerced four women to travel to North Dakota between June 2010 and March 2014 to work as prostitutes in Minot, Williston and Dickinson. Tran flew or drove from California on several occasions to help with the operation of the brothels, which Nguyen managed.

“Nguyen posted advertisements in a southern California-based Vietnamese publication seeking employees to work at a ‘massage/spa’; Trina Nguyen advised respondents that they would work as a prostitute in North Dakota,” authorities said in court documents. “Respondents also met with (Tran), who confirmed that the work in North Dakota involved prostitution.”

The plea agreement for Tran calls for a prison sentence of no less than two years. The charges against him carry a maximum of 20 years with a $250,000 fine. He would spend five years on supervised release after his prison time, and would pay a $500 fee and forfeit money and property he gained from the human trafficking operation.

A plea agreement was not immediately filed for Nguyen.

Federal public defender Neil Fulton declined comment Tuesday on why Tran accepted a plea deal, citing attorney-client privilege. Nguyen’s attorney, Jeff Bredahl, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prosecutors said in court documents that Tran had agreed to waive his appeal rights, and the government was willing to settle the case “in exchange for finality.”

State human trafficking charges against Nguyen and Tran were dismissed earlier when federal prosecutors took jurisdiction in the case.


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