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FORMER L.A. COUNTY SOCIAL WORKER SENTENCED TO NEARLY FOUR YEARS IN PRISON FOR IDENTITY THEFT AND TAX SCAM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2011

LOS ANGELES – A former employee with the Los Angeles County Department of Social Services was sentenced today to 46 months in prison for fraudulently filing federal tax returns in the names of 197 different people that sought more than $2 million in refunds.

Trang Van Dinh, 63, of El Monte, was sentenced by United States District Judge Jacqueline Nguyen, who also ordered Dinh to pay $667,034 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

Dinh pleaded guilty in February to two counts of filing false claims against the United States for engaging in a large-scale identity theft and false tax return scheme.

Dinh, who was employed as an Eligibility Worker II for Los Angeles County from 1999 through 2009, had access to names and social security numbers belonging to individuals seeking public assistance through the county Department of Social Services. Dinh filed fictitious tax returns in the names of DSS clients in 2009 and 2010, typically claiming that the taxpayers suffered business losses or were entitled to a credit for having a dependent. All of the returns requested direct deposit of the federal tax refunds to a bank account controlled by Dinh. In each instance, Dinh filed the fictitious returns without the knowledge, consent or authorization of the person whose name he had used to file the return. 

The 197 returns filed by Dinh sought refunds totaling $2,212,996. The IRS issued refunds totaling $1,156,374. When alerted to the fraudulent conduct, banks froze accounts, but Dinh succeeded in accessing $667,034.

“Trang Van Dinh fraudulently used the names, Social Security numbers and other stolen identifying information of innocent victims to electronically file fraudulent tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service,”  said Marcus E. Williams, acting Special Agent in Charge of IRS-Criminal Investigation. “Today’s sentencing is a victory for the integrity of our tax system.”

Although Dinh’s activities did not result in permanent financial harm for the individuals whose names were used to file the fictitious tax returns, many individuals experienced difficulty and delay in filing their true tax returns because IRS records indicated that tax returns had already been filed. 

During today’s sentencing hearing, Judge Nguyen noted that Dinh “preyed on vulnerable people” – individuals who were indigent and seeking help.

Dinh was ordered to begin serving his prison sentence on July 18.

The tax fraud and identity theft case against Dinh was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation.

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Release No. 11-091

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