Friday, December 3, 1999

Shark-fin buyer
accused of trying
to hire hit man

By Pat Omandam


A rival group vying to buy shark fins at Pier 17 from returning long-line fishing boats prompted Hung Van Huynh in December 1997 to seek a hit man to eliminate his competitor from the lucrative trade, prosecutors say.

But the defense attorney in Huynh's attempted first-degree murder trial at Circuit Court contends that while Huynh was upset by competitor Khanh Le's trying to get fishing captains to sell him their shark fins, he never wanted a murder-for-hire of Le.

Defense attorney Keith Shigetomi said Huynh was set up by an ex-convict who agreed to work with police.

Opening statements began yesterday before a jury in Circuit Judge Wilfred Watanabe's courtroom. At question is whether Huynh tried to hire someone to kill Le or whether he was forced into the murder-for-hire conspiracy by Henry Scanlan, whom prosecutors say solicits protection money from Vietnamese boat captains and from Chinatown businessmen.

Deputy Prosecutor Franklin Pacarro said Huynh had control of the shark-fin business at Pier 17 in November 1997 when Le tried to move in on his turf. Huynh's routine was to buy the fins from returning boat captains and sell them at a mark-up to seafood dealers. The dealers, in turn, ship the fins to Hong Kong, San Francisco and New York for processing, Pacarro said.

"Hung Van Huynh was angered that Khanh Le was moving in," he said. "So he enlisted his friend Henry Scanlan to kill Khanh Le."

Pacarro told the court on Nov. 19, 1997, that Scanlan met with police because he was a suspect in an unrelated kidnapping case. After reviewing the case, police released Scanlan and asked him about Huynh. That's when Scanlan told police Huynh was looking for guns, Pacarro said.

A few days later, police asked Scanlan to work with them as a confidential source to see why Huynh wanted the guns. Both men then met on Nov. 27, 1997, Thanksgiving Day, at Huynh's apartment. Pacarro said that's when Huynh told Scanlan that he wanted someone to kill Le for $5,000. Huynh then showed Scanlan a revolver and a handgun, but said he still needed an automatic weapon, Pacarro said.

Working with police, Scanlan set up a meeting with Huynh and Detective Anderson Hee, who posed undercover as the hit man. On Dec. 4, the group met in a room wired by police at the Airport Holiday Inn. Pacarro said Huynh gave $2,500 and the guns to the undercover officer.

A day later, Scanlan picked up Huynh and told him the job was done. Both men met Hee near the airport, where Hee showed Huynh a blurred picture purportedly of Le. Huynh then handed the officer the remaining $2,500 and was arrested, Pacarro said.

Shigetomi, however, paints a difference scenario. Since Huynh and other Vietnamese were afraid of Scanlan, they paid him protection money. As such, they asked him to beat up Le and get him off the docks when he threatened to take away their business.

Shigetomi said Huynh never wanted to kill Le. Rather, he contended, Scanlan fabricated the story about Huynh wanting to buy a machine gun so that police attention would shift from him. Shigetomi added that Scanlan refused to allow Huynh to back out of the deal, and told him what to say to the undercover officer.

Shigetomi said Huynh is not guilty of first-degree attempted murder because he warned Le that someone was trying to kill him and because he tried to cancel the deal. Huynh is also facing firearms charges.

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