The trial has begun for a man who assisted in the 2014 kidnapping and murder of two brothers in Pennsylvania.
In August 2014, Vietnamese brothers Vu “Kevin” Huynh, 31, and Viet Huynh, 28, and their friend Tam Voong, 20, were targeted over a $300,000 drug debt owed to a marijuana supplier in California.
Vu was described as a popular singer in Vietnam and a gambler who collected debt at a casino near Philadelphia. Along with his brother, they were lured to a garage and badly beaten, as ordered by masterminds Tam Minh Le and Lam Trieu.
Trieu, a former ranking member in a New York City-based gang of immigrants called Born to Kill (BTK), had reached out to Le, who was his old BTK associate, for help in collecting the debt.
The Huynh brothers were stripped, zip tied, duct taped and tortured for hours by Jason Rivera, 36, John Dao, 44, and Trung Lu, 41, before they eventually called Voong, who arrived with $40,000.
While Trieu only ordered the men kidnapped and returned as hostages, Le ordered the three men to be drowned in the Schuylkill River in eastern Pennsylvania.
The men were placed in a van and driven to the riverbanks. According to autopsy results, Viet was stabbed 10 times and Vu 32 times before they were submerged in the river to drown. Voong was also stabbed eight times and tied to a bucket of cement before he was thrown into the river. However, out of the three men, he managed to survive.
The six men have since been charged in the kidnapping and murder of the Huynh brothers. Le was placed on death row in 2016 and executed in June 2020. Trieu was arrested in New York in 2018. In 2021, he pleaded guilty to extortion, drug and conspiracy charges as part of a plea deal. He remains incarcerated at a state prison in Greene County.
Rivera, Dao and a sixth man named Minh Nguyen, who was a lookout and partook in stabbing the victims, continue to face charges. Lu remains a fugitive and is believed to have fled to Vietnam, according to reports.
Rivera appeared in court on Tuesday. His attorney, Thomas S. Mirigliano, claims that his client has been wrongfully accused by investigators.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Livermore, Rivera “stood and watched” as the victims were stabbed and drowned.
“The evidence will not show that Jason Rivera stabbed the victims or that he rolled them into the river,” Livermore reportedly said. “[But it will show that] he and the others kidnapped the Huynh brothers, and they died as a result of that kidnapping.”
The testimony in Rivera’s trial is expected to resume on Wednesday. If he is convicted on the charges of conspiracy, kidnapping and extortion, he could be sentenced to up to life in prison.