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October 26, 2022

New York man convicted for role in 2014 kidnapping of two men found dead in Schuylkill River

Jason Rivera, 32, was paid by Vietnamese gang Born to Kill to help collect a $300,000 drug debt from three dealers in Philadelphia

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Kidnapping charges for New York man in Philly Kat Wilcox/Pexels

Jason Rivera was charged with kidnapping and torture for his involvement in the 2014 crime that left two brothers dead and their bodies dumped in the Schuylkill River.

A New York City man has been convicted for his role in a 2014 kidnapping plot with a Vietnamese gang that left two men dead after they were stabbed and thrown into the Schuylkill River.

Jason Rivera, 37, of Queens, was found guilty of kidnapping and extortion, United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced Tuesday. Rivera had been paid by the Born to Kill gang to help collect a $300,000 drug debt from three dealers in Philadelphia.

“What Rivera and his co-conspirators did to their victims was particularly heinous – so much so that, nearly a decade later, the circumstances of these murders and attempted murder still stand out,” said Jacqueline Maguire, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division.

Rivera's trial began on Oct. 19 on allegations that he participated in the killing of brothers Viet and Vu Huynh. A third victim, Tan Voong, managed to escape.

Voong testified in court, saying he was on his knees and could sense he was in danger before he felt himself getting stabbed, the Inquirer reported. He then said all he felt was his body submerging in water. 

Rivera's defense attorney, Thomas Mirigliano, said that testimonies during the trial, mostly from other men involved in the kidnapping, should be discredited as the men were looking to save themselves from a life behind bars.

After the guilty verdict, Rivera reportedly mumbled, "this is crazy." Nevertheless, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison.

In August of 2014, Rivera and two other men, John Dao and Trung Lu, were recruited by Lam Trieu, a New York City drug dealer and former member of BTK, to go to Philly to assist in getting money owed to California drug dealers for marijuana that was given to the Huynh brothers. 

Trieu had reached out to Tam Le, a Philadelphia associate, for help recouping the debt. The plan involved luring the Huynh brothers to the home of Le in Southwest Philly. 

The Huynh brothers were tied up with zip ties and restrained with duct tape as they were assaulted for hours. Voong was later lured to bring money for the Huynh brothers, before being violently restrained. The three men were then stabbed multiple times, put in the back of a van, weighed down and thrown into the Schuykill River along Kelly Drive. 

Voong was able to escape the water and flag down help. The Huynh brothers were pronounced dead after their bodies were recovered. 

Le was arrested in January 2015 in Ashland, Virginia by U.S. Marshalls. He was charged with murder and was sentenced to death. Trieu was convicted of extortion, drug and conspiracy-related charges for his role in reaching out to Le.

Lu is still at large, and law enforcement believes he may be in Vietnam. The FBI is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to his arrest.

In total, six defendants were charged for their involvement in the crime. 

“After the initial investigation and arrests were made in this case which resulted in state charges for two individuals involved with these murders and attempted murder, the trail on the other individuals who helped them went nearly cold,” Romero said. “But thanks to the persistent efforts and dogged determination of the FBI and other law enforcement partners, our Office was able to charge these remaining individuals, get them off the streets, and bring them to justice for their crimes.”