A Brooklyn Center woman who eluded arrest for more than two years was sentenced to a 4½-year term for concocting a ginseng farm scam that duped people out of nearly $500,000 and fed her penchant for gambling.

Mai V. Vang, 51, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court to four counts of theft by swindle and was immediately sentenced by Judge Peter Cahill. Two other counts were dismissed.

With credit for time in jail since her arrest, Vang will serve about 2¾ years in prison and the balance on supervised release.

She also was ordered to pay restitution of more than $480,000 to her nine victims. Vang targeted members of the Hmong community. Among her victims was a couple Vang knew from church who gave her their life savings. She found others at her church to victimize as well, including a couple who ran the house of worship at the time. 

Investigators discovered that Vang spent a growing amount of money from 2012-14 at Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake buying chips or playing slot machines in excess of $1 million. She also spent more than $27,000 at Running Aces Harness Park south of Forest Lake.

Vang always insisted on cash from her victims and concocted a host of bogus stories to explain why, according to prosecutors. She told most of her investors that she had cancer, while also claiming she needed money while going through a divorce or had to pay back taxes or had back taxes to pay on the farm.

The investors paid Vang $3,500 to $4,000 per acre on a farm she said was in Wausau, Wis., while promising them a return at harvest time of $75,000 per acre.

Vang had eluded arrest for more than two years after the charges were filed in December 2017. She was located in Georgia in March 2020 during a traffic stop and returned to Minnesota.