News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington

Former Seattle Man Sentenced To Six Years In Prison For Identity Theft And Bank Fraud

Recruited Members of the Vietnamese Community to his Scheme with Lure of Easy Money

January 17, 2014

            A former Seattle resident who committed nearly $600,000 in bank fraud was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to six years in prison, five years of supervised release and -$592,580 in restitution announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  CHI AHN NGUYEN, 45, recruited other members of the Vietnamese community to the scheme to defraud banks by running up credit card and cash advance debts that he never intended to repay.  NGUYEN used the identities of others—many of whom participated in the schemeto access credit cards that he and others involved in the scheme used to purchase jewelry and other consumer goods or for cash advances at casinos.  NGUYEN then took a share of the proceeds derived from those transactions.  At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik ordered NGUYEN to participate in drug treatment and Gamblers Anonymous as part of his supervised release.

            “With the promise of easy money, this defendant led other members of a close community into criminal conduct,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  “They may have thought this was a victimless crime – just some big bank that takes a loss – but in fact this conduct raises the cost of credit and banking services for all consumers.”

            According to records filed in the case, NGUYEN gained access to credit cards from Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Discover, Boeing Employees Credit Union (BECU), Chase, U.S. Bank and Capital One.  In April 2011 alone, NGUYEN took cash advances in excess of $16,000 at area casinos.  After exhausting the available credit, NGUYEN would then make fraudulent telephone and Internet payments on the accounts so that credit would be restored and additional purchases or cash withdrawals could be made.  NGUYEN made these fraudulent payments using account information that was false or bank accounts that had insufficient funds to cover the payments.  But by the time the banks discovered the payments were fictitious, NGUYEN and his co-schemers had already used the fraudulently obtained credit.  Between February 2011 and December 2011, NGUYEN was responsible for losses totaling $588,367.  As part of his plea, NGUYEN also pled guilty to a separate bank fraud scheme that he perpetrated in early 2012 in and around Chicago.  NGUYEN was ultimately arrested on these charges in Hartford, Connecticut.

Two of NGUYEN’s co-schemers, Son Pham and Phone Phommavanh, also pled guilty to bank fraud.  Pham pled guilty to bank fraud among other crimes in November 2013 and will be sentenced on February 7, 2014.  Phommavanh pled guilty to bank fraud in December 2013 and will be sentenced on March 7, 2014.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigation (HSI).  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Hampton.



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