2 arrested for murder of casino big winner

SANTA ANA, Calif. Police allege Tad Carroll and Barbara Hamel worked together with a third man hanging around the Hawaiian Gardens Casino looking for big winners, potential victims they could rob.

"It appears they have a routine," said Santa Ana Police Corporal Anthony Bertagna. "Unfortunately the end of this case didn't go the way they had planned it."

Westminster resident Chi Ngoc Bui, 55, was killed shortly after winning several thousand dollars at the casino on Sept. 3. Investigators allege the unidentified suspect closely watched Bui inside the casino.

"He walks around, identifies big winners, watches them cash out, watches them leave the casino and then calls the two people inside the car waiting and then they follow the victim," said Bertagna.

Police allege Carroll, a 41-year-old transient, and Hamel, a 47-year-old Long Beach resident, sat in their car as Bui left the casino. With Hamel behind the wheel, they allegedly followed Bui.

Bui was driving a female friend home in a red Honda when the suspects cut them off on a Santa Ana street.

"The male suspect exited the vehicle, the victim tried to run away with the money in his hand. There was an altercation. The victim was beaten by the suspect," said Bertagna.

The female victim escaped unharmed, but investigators suspect Hamel ran over Bui after taking his money. Bui died at the scene.

Both suspects were on parole. Both have long criminal histories. Hamel's past convictions include prostitution and robbery. Carroll has been convicted of grand theft.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is also investigating Carroll as a suspect in a similar robbery at the same casino in June.

"It appears to be well planned out and it appears that they've done this before," said Bertagna. "We don't know how many times, whether there's victims out there that haven't [reported it], out of fear of contacting the police. So at least one other case, we believe possibly more."

Carroll and Hamel were being held at the Santa Ana Jail. Authorities have identified the third suspect as 26-year-old Long Beach resident Michael Ross. Ross is suspected of acting with Carroll to rob another casino winner of $5,000 in June. Ross is still at large.

Anyone with information related to the case was asked to call the Santa Ana Police Department at (714) 245-8400.

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