As Josephine Quan Anh Bui looks back on her life, she sees notable accomplishments, including successfully fleeing Vietnam as a seven-year-old girl with her family on a fishing boat chased by communist bullets intended to prevent their temporary destination in Indonesia.
In 1985, Bui’s strict Bien Hoa-based Catholic family—which included a father who served as a captain in the South Vietnamese military before being tossed into a post-war concentration camp—settled in Fountain Valley.
But Bui took a wrong turn in her teenage years after socializing at Little Saigon nightclubs with underworld figures, a move that resulted in her failure to obtain a high school diploma and placed her on a rollercoaster ride between keeping clean and breaking laws.
She landed in prison after felony convictions in 2000 and 2001, punishment that didn’t keep her crime-free.
In recent weeks, the U.S. Probation Office recommended a 46-month prison term after authorities uncovered her seven-year illegal smuggling operation that used semi-trucks to transport bulk loads of marijuana from Orange County to Pinellas County, Florida until November 2016.
“The United States was our dream of freedom and opportunity,” Bui told U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter. “I have no excuse for breaking the laws. America gave me so much and I failed to behave with honor and respect.”
She sought a prison term of no more than 15 months and, in a rare event, won the backing of federal prosecutors, who were impressed by her “fulsome acceptance of responsibility,” her willingness to turnover about $500,000 in drug proceeds to the government and the nation’s trend toward legalization of marijuana.
Prosecutors took an additional supportive step, urging Carter to impose community service in lieu of more prison time, if he believed their sentence recommendation had been too lenient.
The judge agreed to impose the 15-month sentence plus a term of three years of supervised probation when she re-emerges in society.
Bui must self-surrender by noon on July 1, 2019 to the U.S. Marshal inside Orange County’s Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; earned six dozen other reporting awards; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; won inclusion in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting for his coverage of a white supremacist’s senseless murder of a beloved Vietnamese refugee; launched multi-year probes that resulted in the FBI arrests and convictions of the top three ranking members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; and gained praise from New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.