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Brian Chhoun

Three weeks before trial, members of one of Utah's most violent gangs are making plea deals with federal prosecutors.

On Friday, brothers Brian Chhoun and Daniel Chhoun appeared in federal court to plead guilty to racketeering and admitted to committing crimes of violence for their gang.

Court documents indicate that four or five others also may accept plea deals next week.

In court, Brian Chhoun, 23, and Daniel Chhoun, 25, both admitted to committing crimes, including shootings at rival gang members, in support of the Tiny Oriental Posse, or TOP.

Federal prosecutors say at least 14 TOP members took part in or supported an array of assaults, home-invasion robberies, drug trafficking and even murders to bolster the standing of their gang.

Among their violent acts was the Nov. 7, 1998, fatal shooting of Bethany Hyde. Police say TOP members mistook Hyde's car for that of a rival gang member.

Based on the original charge, Daniel Chhoun and Brian Chhoun both faced up to 20 years in prison. Under the plea deal, they could face around five years. Sentencing for the two will be May 27 and 28, respectively.

Friday's pleas came at the heels of a trial scheduled to begin March 10. Prosecutors say TOP members are scrambling to strike plea deals of their own.

For trial, prosecutors have lined up a comprehensive history of the gang's violence, including drive-by shootings, home-invasion robberies and homicides.

The group was indicted last July, accused of running a criminal organization. Federal agents say TOP is an Asian gang with no real hierarchy or written rules but whose members demand strong loyalty. Disloyalty to the gang sometimes results in physical punishment.

TOP is the third violent gang to be dismantled by federal prosecutors using the federal RICO racketeering law.


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