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Police: Children left alone in van at Rivers Casino

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Monday, Nov. 1, 2010

A Washington County couple are in Allegheny County Jail after being charged with leaving three children in their van while gambling at Rivers Casino.

According to court filings, security guards were alerted by an anonymous person at 3:41 p.m. Saturday that three children -- a 10-month old girl and two boys, 3 and 10 -- were alone in a gold 2000 Oldsmobile Silhouette minivan in the casino's parking garage on the North Shore.

Surveillance footage shows Phayvonh Peaungvongpakdy, 38, left the van two hours earlier to enter the casino, while her boyfriend, Lounla Xayathep, 54, stayed with the children, court documents say. The cameras allegedly caught Xayathep leaving the automobile, which is registered to him, at 3:07 p.m. Saturday to go into the casino, leaving the children with two half-full baby bottles, a few diapers and a handful of baby wipes.

After the casino's public address system broadcast the van's description to customers, both Xayathep and Peaungvongpakdy returned to the children at 3:58 p.m. and Pittsburgh police officer Paul G. Abel Jr. arrested them without incident, according to court documents.

Xayathep and Peaungvongpakdy were each charged with three counts of endangering the welfare of children and three counts of leaving infants in a motor vehicle. They were arraigned at 2 a.m. Sunday in city Night Court and are housed at the jail on $50,000 bonds. A preliminary hearing is slated for 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The children were turned over to the Allegheny County Children, Youth and Family Services.

According to a police report, Xayathep and Peaungvongpakdy are originally from Laos and speak limited English. They told officers they are the children's guardians, not parents.

The couple allegedly refused to give officers the names or telephone numbers of family members.



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