Katherine Le is pictured. Le, a well-known jewelry designer, and her husband, Hao Dinh Nguyen, 51, were both arrested Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, and charged with money laundering in connection with a Houston gameroom. Photo: Houston Chronicle / handout
Katherine Le




Six people, including a Houston socialite, are expected to appear Friday in a Harris County courtroom, accused of money laundering in connection with a Houston gameroom.

Katherine Le, a well-known jewelry designer in Houston’s social circles, and her husband, Hao Dinh Nguyen, 51, were arrested Thursday and charged with organized criminal activity. They are both in jail in lieu of bail of $1 million each.

Le, 47, was honored as one of Houston’s best dressed in 2010 and has been a perennial figure at Houston fashion shows and in area fashion news.

Four others were also arrested in Thursday’s sweep: Thinh Nguyen, 63; Bich Thuy Nguyen, 46; Urixie Palacios-Juarez, 35; and Jose Palacios-Juarez, 28.

Assistant Harris County District Attorney Lester Blizzard declined to comment on the case Thursday. He said he expected details of the allegations to come to light in court Friday.

All six are accused of concealing more than $300,000 in proceeds from illegal gambling. All remain in jail on bail set at $1 million, a common amount in high-dollar white-collar cases. If convicted of the first-degree felony, all face a maximum punishment of life in prison.

Le’s husband was arrested last year with two other men in connection with three gamerooms. Those charges were later dismissed after a grand jury decided there was not enough evidence to indict.

In that case, Houston police vice squad officers played “8 liner” video gambling machines at Diamond 777 at 2395 Texas 6 South, Royal 777 at 1380 Westheimer and Window Club Video Game at 9366 Richmond. The 8-liner gambling machines are similar to Las Vegas-style slot machines and are generally illegal in Texas.

However, private gamerooms that tightly control access have proliferated much faster than authorities have been able to shut them down. Prosecutors and police long have bemoaned the difficulties for investigators to witness illegal activity in order to secure convictions.

When asked if arresting alleged owners and operators on money laundering charges is a new approach to try to combat the enterprises, Blizzard would not comment.