News and Press Releases

Money to be returned to dozens of Vietnamese victims

November 18, 2005

NO VAN NGUYEN, 37, of Seattle was sentenced to 18 months in prison today in U.S. District Court in Seattle for False Impersonation of a Federal Employee with Intent to Defraud. In sentencing NGUYEN, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez commented that "the victims in this case were particularly vulnerable because NGUYEN used who he was as a member of their community to gain their trust and take their money."

NGUYEN pleaded guilty on July 28, 2005, admitting he took thousands of dollars from Vietnamese immigrants claiming he was an Immigration and Nationalization (INS) employee who could assist them in obtaining a variety of government benefits. NGUYEN claimed he could obtain items ranging from cosmetology licenses to "green cards" and citizenship papers. Many of the Vietnamese victims gave NGUYEN their life savings or went into debt to pay him for services that were never provided.

In April 2005, Kent Police received a complaint about NGUYEN. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents investigated, and observed NGUYEN representing himself as a government employee. In fact, NGUYEN never worked for the government. At the time of his arrest NGUYEN had more than $100,000 cash in small bills in the trunk of his car.

Prosecutors and investigators have worked diligently to identify those who paid money to NGUYEN so that their funds can be returned. So far 47 victims have been identified, accounting for $96,161 in losses. Some of the victims wrote to the court describing the toll NGUYEN's scam has taken on their lives. One woman wrote, " I have to borrow and use up my saving, my family is now in a very difficult situation, especially when I am a single mom with four children." Another wrote "I borrowed money from friends and now I don't know how to pay back. Because of this my family is not happy." A third wrote to the court "I have two little children and now I am in debt. I am very worry and sad.... Now I have to starve in order to save some money to pay back my debt. My children are starting school but I don't have any money to buy them new school clothes."

Prosecutors hope victims will get their money back within two weeks.

In asking for the prison sentence, Assistant United States Attorney Lawrence Lincoln pointed out that NGUYEN preyed upon vulnerable members of his own community. "This case is not just about the loss of money, it is about the loss of their belief in the goodness of a stranger in our society," Lincoln said.

The case was investigated by the Kent Police Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington, @06) 553-4110.

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