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HOME INVASION ROBBER SENTENCED TO 75 YEARS IN THE “SMOKING GUM” CASE

Homug Viet Van Ho, 37, of Orlando, Florida, was sentenced to 2 75 year sentences in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on Monday for a home-invasion style Aggravated Robbery that occurred in 2004, at a residence in the Willis area. Visiting Judge P.K. Reiter, sitting in the 435th District Court, ordered both sentences at a punishment hearing following Ho’s guilty pleas to both charges.

Prosecutor Jim Prewitt presented evidence that on the afternoon of the robbery, a male homeowner answered the door, believing the defendant and another defendant were deliverymen. As the homeowner opened the door, Ho and the second defendant forced their way into the house with guns, threatening to kill the homeowner and his wife. A third defendant also forced his way in with a gun. After taking jewelry from the 2 victims, the defendants forced the victims back to a bedroom where they ordered the husband at gunpoint to open 2 safes located in the closet. The defendants then tied the 2 victims up with zip ties and duct tape before they got away with guns, jewelry and cash. The victims did not know the defendants and were unable to identify them. The crime went unsolved for 5 years.

Evidence showed that during the robbery, Ho grabbed a comforter and ripped it open, inadvertently leaving a fresh piece of gum at the crime scene. Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) crime scene investigator Leslie McCauley recovered the gum and comforter and sent it to the DPS Lab in Houston for DNA profiling. Investigator McCauley also recovered 2 latent fingerprints on a cardboard box Ho used during the robbery. In 2009, acting on a CODIS DNA Database hit out of Florida, MCSO Detective Mike Landrum obtained a search warrant for a swab from Ho. Comparison of the DNA in Ho’s swab with the DNA found on the gun and comforter resulted in a finding that Ho was the contributor of the DNA on the gum and the comforter. The 2 latent fingerprints on the cardboard box were compared to Ho’s fingerprints by Investigator McCauley and were found to be Ho’s prints. Before a jury was due to be selected, Ho pled guilty to both charges.

Punishment evidence showed that Ho was a Vietnamese refugee who arrived in the United States in 1988. After settling in the Orlando, Florida area, he was convicted in 1994 of Shooting a Missile within a Building/Carrying a Concealed Weapon and sentenced to 5 years in the Florida Department of Corrections. Before he was released, he was convicted of Racketeering Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud in Federal court in southern Florida and transferred to Federal prison in 1997. Before his transfer, he was ordered by an INS judge in 1996 to be removed from the United States, but Vietnam and France refused to take him.

Following his release from Federal prison and after he committed the 2004 robberies, Ho resided again in the Orlando area before he became the focus of a DEA/ICE/Florida state investigation into Trafficking in MDMA (Ecstasy). He was convicted of a lesser degree charge of Trafficking in Florida and received a 2 year sentence in 2008. Following his release, he provided Florida authorities with a DNA sample which was later placed in the CODIS DNA Database that provided a hit.

Prior to the 2004 home-invasion robbery, Ho had no connections to the State of Texas. He will have to serve 37.5 years of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.

“Prisons are built to house violent offenders like Mr. Ho,” stated District Attorney Brett Ligon. “Hats off to the Sheriff’s Office for preserving the DNA that finally caught up with this repeat criminal. Thanks to Judge Reiter, Mr. ho will not be around to menace anyone else for a long time.”

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