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Men arrested in O.C. kidnapping case had criminal record. What did they do with the victim?

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A Midway City man who has been missing for nearly two weeks was followed home, tased and kidnapped for ransom by two ex-parolees who have served time for robbery and murder, Orange County prosecutors say.

In court documents fighting their release from jail filed March 19, prosecutors say that allowing Nhan Nguyen, 49, and Phi Nguyen, 53, to post bond would result in further harm to 61-year-old Tony Lam, who was beaten and forced into a car outside his Midway City home on March 15. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department, which is investigating the case, sought help from the public last week to find Lam. But, the effort has not been successful, authorities told The Times.

Both Nguyens were arrested in the last two weeks and each face a felony count of kidnapping for ransom. Neither man has entered a plea. Prosecutors detailed the two men’s criminal histories, which date back to the 1990s, in motions filed with the court to block them from bailing out of jail. The motions were approved by commissioners the same day.

“Law enforcement cannot render aid to victim because defendant callously refuses to tell them where he brought victim. It is unknown if [Lam] is dead or alive. His family has no idea where he is or if he is safe or suffering. And defendant could not care less,” Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Nicholas Thomo wrote in motions for each of the defendants.

Attorneys representing the two men did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Prosecutors allege that Nhan Nguyen and Phi Nguyen followed Lam from a restaurant as he rode in an Uber back to his house on Hunter Lane. Shortly after midnight on March 15, a woman in the neighborhood was awakened by screams and pleas for help. She watched as a man dragged Lam down the driveway into a waiting car.

Security camera footage reviewed by investigators showed an assailant, which authorities allege was Nhan Nguyen, hitting Lam and deploying a Taser on him. “Who are you?” Lam screamed back at the man, prosecutors said in their filing.

At one point, Lam made it back onto his feet and ran for his front door, but the attacker caught up to him and tased him in the upper body “before throwing him to the ground,” the filing states.

Authorities linked Nhan Nguyen, who they allege had ties to a criminal street gang, to the attack through his car’s license plate, according to the document. He was arrested later that day. Phi Nguyen, who authorities allege was with Nhan Nguyen the night of the kidnapping, was taken into custody on March 19, police said.

Nhan Nguyen told investigators that he was “just doing [his] job.” Later, he told them “the kidnapping was over an argument he had with the victim,” Thomo wrote. Investigators have not disclosed a motive in the case.

Thomo said Nhan Nguyen is a “violent, dangerous gangster,” in the filing.

Nhan Nguyen was convicted of second-degree murder with an enhancement for use of a firearm in 1999 in Los Angeles County. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, according to L.A. County court records.

He was paroled in 2017 and discharged from supervision in 2021, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Phi Nguyen has served terms in state prison four times since 1996 on charges that include second-degree burglary and second-degree robbery, drug possession and petty theft, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In 2010, he was sentenced to 19 years in prison for first-degree burglary as a second-striker with enhancements for prior prison terms. While he was incarcerated in 2019, he was sentenced in San Diego County to two years in prison for possession of a controlled substance, records show.

Phi Nguyen was released on parole in February 2022 and was discharged from supervision last year, according to the agency.

“He has clearly spent more time in jail and prison than he has outside the walls of detention facility,” Thomo wrote about Phi Nguyen. “Given that unbelievable statistic, he has still somehow managed his tour of criminal crusades across our state and country. It is obvious to the People and should be to the court that Defendant will flee the moment he is able.”

Meanwhile, the search for Lam continues. He is 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs about 145 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a dark shirt and blue jeans.

Anyone with information is being asked to contact Orange County Sheriff Dispatch at (714) 647-7000. Anonymous tips can be provided through Orange County Crime Stoppers at (855) TIP-OCCS.

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