After two years, Ginseng scam suspect found in Georgia


A Brooklyn Center woman who eluded arrest for more than two years after being charged with six counts of theft by swindle in a ginseng scam will make her first court appearance, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Monday.

Mai Vu Vang, 51, was arrested in Georgia on March 18 and was brought back to Minneapolis over the weekend. Prosecutors will be seeking bail of $500,000 at the hearing Monday afternoon.

While the investigation by the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau and Fridley Police was active, Vang left for Georgia and in June 2017 was charged in Clark County with false reporting of a crime and obstruction of law enforcement officers. In December 2017, the Hennepin County Attorney filed the theft by swindle charges by warrant.

At the request of Minnesota investigators, local police officers in Georgia attempted to contact Vang numerous times at an address they suspected was her residence but they were unsuccessful. Vang’s arrest last month was apparently on a traffic stop and she was held on the Clark County charges.

According to the Hennepin County charges, between 2012 and 2014, Vang orchestrated a fraud scheme in which she convinced members of the Minnesota Hmong community to invest in a ginseng farm she claimed to own near Wausau, Wisconsin. The fraud resulted in total losses to nine victims of more than $450,000, including one couple who knew Vang from church and gave her their life savings.

Records from Mystic Lake Casino showed that, between 2012 and 2014, Vang’s buy-in at the casino totaled more than one million dollars. (A buy-in is the amount a player used to buy chips or play the slot machines.) Vang’s buy-in increased each year as she took money from the victims. In 2012, her buy-in was less than $75,000, according to the complaint. In 2014, it was nearly $665,000. The investigation also found that Vang spent more than $27,000 at Running Aces Harness Park in October 2014, according to the complaint.