Chris Chuyen Vo

Chris Chuyen Vo's arraignment is set for April 20 at the Santa Ana Central Justice Center. (Jonathan Phan / Daily Titan)

 

Prosecutors alleged that the Chris Chuyen Vo, a former Cal State Fullerton employee, committed murder to avoid being discovered for embezzlement, at his preliminary hearing on Thursday at the Superior Court of California County of Orange in Santa Ana. 

“There’s no other motive,” said Whitney Bokosky, a senior deputy district attorney. “There’s no other reason, they had no beef for him to kill this innocent person on his way to work.” 

It’s been over a year since Steven Shek Keung Chan, a former Cal State Fullerton administrator, a 57-year-old man from Hacienda Heights was fatally stabbed in the College Park parking lot. Chan’s death in August 2019 led to a search for the assailant resulting in Vo’s arrest at his Huntington Beach residence.

Vo is currently being held without bail at the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange.

During his time at the university, Vo worked in finance for the Student Services and International Programs department. Before he retired in 2017, Chan served as the director of budget and finance for Student Services and Extended Education, and in 2019 he returned as a consultant to do a financial audit of Vo’s division.

Charged with murder, Vo pleaded not guilty in October 2019. One year and two months later, the Orange County District Attorney’s office added a charge that alleged the motive for the homicide was for financial gain and embezzlement. 

“Mr. Chan was the person who was in the best position to catch Mr. Vo,” Bokosky said. 

The evidence pointed out that Vo committed fraud at CSUF, using his position as a way to obtain funds for his “phony business,” Bokosky said. She added that the motive was clear when Vo’s colleague even pointed out that the funneling of funds was a “red flag.”

Throughout the one-day hearing, Vo remained silent and did not address the charges presented against him. 

Brian Young, a senior forensic accountant at the DA’s office, said that just over $200k was transferred to David Parker Educational Services which was just one of the three personal accounts Vo managed under J.P. Morgan Chase bank. 

The money to the company spanned from December 2017 until August 2019 just before Vo’s arrest, Young said. 

Ginny Johnson, a crimes person unit detective from the Fullerton Police Department, said that the CSUF vendor procedure begins with an invoice, then a financial form is filled and when it is authorized a check is generated with the approval of a CSUF manager. She added that Vo’s job included processing the checks.

Johnson said every check was approved with a different manager's name. She recalled at least one of the approvals was allegedly authorized by Chan, which made it difficult to tell if the authorizations were forged. CSUF did not have a contract with David Parker nor did Vo’s department have the funds to invest in it, Johnson said. 

T. Edward Welbourn, from the Corrigan Welbourn and Stokke law firm, Vo’s attorney, said that there was “insufficient evidence” that the crime was carried out for financial gain.

Welbourn said nothing points to Chan knowing about the embezzlement as it was only discovered months after Vo was arrested. He added that the court could only rely on the people’s theory for the motive. 

“There is no other link that has been presented other than the fact that Mr. Vo worked at Cal State Fullerton along with Mr. Chan,” Welbourn said. 

Judge Gary S. Paer echoed Welbourn’s sentiments as he said that the embezzlement and financial gain charge was “an issue.”

“There is no evidence, or at least direct evidence or even circumstantial evidence to say well he had killed Chan so that Chan wouldn’t report him,” Paer said. 

The evidence showed that Chan did not know about the embezzlement and never reported it, Paer added. 

In October 2020, Kimberely Edds, the DA’s public information officer, confirmed to the Daily Titan that the additional charges were in relation to his work at CSUF. 

The university withheld all of the Department of Extended Education’s financial records from the past five years after Daily Titan reporters filed a public records request, citing the on-going investigation as a reason not to.

Vo received a $7,059 pension in 2020 for his service at CSUF, according to Transparent California. 

Vo’s next arraignment is set for April 20 for the count of personally using a deadly weapon and special circumstance in murdering by means of lying in wait.

A previous version of this story stated that Chris Chuyen Vo’s lawyers alleged that the former Cal State Fullerton employee’s motive was for financial gain. It was the prosecutors that made this allegation. We at the Daily Titan apologize for our error. 

News Editor F20; Reporter & Digital Managing Editor S21

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