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Press Release

Priest Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

Stole Money from Parishioners and Lied to Return Preparer

A priest for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose pleaded guilty today to four counts of tax evasion, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo, head of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch for the Northern District of California and Special Agent in Charge Michael T. Batdorf for the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).

Father Hien Minh Nguyen, 56, admitted that over a period of four years, he stole money his parishioners donated to the Diocese and willfully evaded paying income taxes on the money he misappropriated each year from 2008 through 2011.  He admitted that he deposited this money into his personal bank account, did not disclose this income to his return preparer, did not keep records of the donations he stole, and filed false income tax returns which did not report this money. 

Father Nguyen also pleaded not guilty to bank fraud charges.  Those charges are still pending. 

“Father Nguyen stole money from his parishioners and filed false returns with the IRS to evade his income tax obligations,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo.  “The department remains committed to holding all criminal tax offenders accountable for their illegal conduct, regardless of their profession.  No one is above the law.”

Sentencing on the tax evasion convictions has not been scheduled.  Father Nguyen faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison and monetary penalties for each tax evasion conviction. Father Nguyen’s next scheduled appearance is a status conference on the bank fraud charges currently scheduled for Aug. 23.  An indictment is merely an allegation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.  Father Nguyen pleaded guilty to the tax evasion charges.  He has not pleaded guilty to bank fraud charges and remains presumed innocent of those charges. 

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo and U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch commended special agents of the IRS-CI, who investigated the case and Trial Attorney Gregory Bernstein of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Moore of the Northern District of California, who are prosecuting the case.

Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.

Updated August 10, 2016

Press Release Number: 16-925