From wire service reports
Cambodian Freedom Fighter Sentenced to Additional 37 Months for Tax Evasion
A self-appointed commander of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, a Long Beach-based group formed to seize political control in the southeast Asian country, was sentenced Monday to a concurrent term of 37 months in prison for tax evasion.
Yasith Chhun, a 54-year-old United States citizen, was previously sentenced last June to a life term for conspiring to kill in a foreign country and other federal counts stemming from his 2008 conviction.
The same year, Chhun pleaded guilty to conspiring to file false tax returns and aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns. Chhun admitted operating an accounting service that filed false tax returns for numerous taxpayers, resulting in a loss of more than $400,000, according to court papers.
Before he was sentenced to the life term last summer, U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson expressed some sympathy for the defendant, who told the judge he formed the 200-strong Cambodian Freedom Fighters partly to avenge the murder of his father at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.
"I don't think Mr. Chhun is an evil human being," the judge said. "I think he's had a tragic life -- and had the misfortune of being born in a place where terrible things were happening."
Chhun, a former Long Beach accountant who came to the U.S. as a refugee in 1982, was found guilty in 2010 after a two-week trial of the four charges against him -- conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, conspiracy to damage or destroy property in a foreign country, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States and engaging in a military expedition against a nation with which the United States is at peace.
Jurors were told Chhun planned "Operation Volcano" to overthrow the government of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. The failed attempt resulted in the deaths of at least six people, including a 15-year-old boy killed in a grenade attack and a young man who was shot by a stray bullet, Pregerson said.
During the trial, prosecutors portrayed Chhun as a callous, cowardly, incompetent leader of the CFF, who held group meetings at his Long Beach business, CCC Professional Accounting Services, located in the 2700 block of East 10th Street.
Chhun also met with former members of the Khmer Rouge military at the Cambodia-Thailand border in October 1998 to plan Sen's overthrow, prosecutors said.
The Khmer Rouge and its leader, Pol Pot, ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. The Communist organization was blamed for the deaths of more than 1 million people through execution, forced labor and starvation in what became known as the country's "killing fields."
After raising money in the United States -- including staging a May 2000 fundraiser at the Queen Mary -- the CFF launched "popcorns," or small-scale guerrilla attacks in Cambodia against gas stations, coffee shops and other targets, according to the U.S. government.
The judge also noted that the CFF "was probably infiltrated, so had no realistic chance of succeeding."