A South Philadelphia mortgage broker was ordered held without bail yesterday on murder-for-hire charges as prosecutors revealed that the man he allegedly attempted to hire was a cooperating federal witness who secretly recorded several conversations in which the murder plot was discussed.
"Make it look like a robbery," Mahn Huu "Bruce" Doan said, according to a partial transcript in a pretrial motion filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine E. Sykes.
"Do whatever you think is best in your mind where it don't bring back heat," Doan allegedly added during the conversation recorded May 1 at his business office in the Econo Lodge Airport Hotel in South Philadelphia.
Prosecutors allege that Doan wanted a hit man to kill two individuals and maim a third. While authorities have not identified the targets, sources familiar with the investigation said one was a Center City lawyer and the others were plaintiffs the lawyer represented in a civil suit against Doan.
The transcripts made public yesterday focused primarily on the plot against the lawyer.
In a conversation recorded at the same location May 7, Doan is quoted telling the reputed hit man: "Get a van . . . lock him up, tie him up. Light him up like Christmas. . . . Nobody is going to miss him. Trust me. Take him, put 'im in the [expletive] van and drive him to my warehouse . . . and light the [expletive]."
The lawyer, identified by sources as Anthony Quinn, could not be reached for comment.
Doan was arrested Friday, and the FBI then searched his office, where, they said, they discovered photographs of the lawyer's home.
According to the prosecution motion, Doan acknowledged when arrested that he was "angry with the attorney" and had told someone to "get rid of him."
But Doan's attorneys said yesterday that their client merely had been venting and had no intention having any violence carried out.
"It was over-the-top bluster," William J. Brennan said. "The wild ravings of a lunatic."
Jeffrey Miller, who also represents Doan, said the case was built around a cooperating witness who had "pumped the case up from a Ping-Pong ball to a beach ball."
The bottom line, Miller said, is that no one was hurt.
Prosecutors have declined to comment further about the case.
Doan, ironically, was himself a cooperating witness when the alleged scheme unfolded. He pleaded guilty in a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud three years ago and has cooperated with federal authorities ever since.
At a separate hearing yesterday, his $50,000 bail in that case was revoked. He is scheduled to be sentenced on conspiracy and fraud charges June 16.
Prosecutors allege that Doan offered cash and a residence to the unnamed cooperating witness if he carried out the two murders and maimed a third individual.
The indictment also alleges that, under Doan's direction, associates conducted surveillance and took photos of a residence and the lawyer's office and that Doan arranged for others to travel to New Jersey and buy a handgun that was to be used in the plot.
Sources familiar with the case described the witness as a convicted felon with a history of violence who was introduced to Doan this year by another of Doan's business associates.
"I tell you, I am good on what I do," he told Doan in the May 7 conversation.
"I don't need no high-caliber gun," he said later in the conversation. "I know how to take somebody out. You can give me a .25, and I can do it."
In a strange twist in the same conversation, the man talked about getting a rattlesnake and using it as a murder weapon.
"You don't have to put the gun to them," he said. "Let the snake bite them. Who's going to trace that back?"
He also talked about planting heroin on the lawyer and robbing the home of the intended victim.
"Whatever you do, I don't want to go to jail," said Doan, according to the transcript.