Skip to main content
Press Release

San Jose Resident Pleads Guilty In False Tax Refund Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California
Defendant distributed pamphlets at homeless shelters and open markets

SAN JOSE – Trong Minh Nguyen, aka John Nguyen, pleaded guilty for his role in a conspiracy to file false claims announced United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch, United States Postal Inspection Service Inspector in Charge Rafael Nuñez, and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge Michael T. Batdorf.

According to the plea agreement entered yesterday afternoon, Nguyen, 57, of San Jose, began preparing false federal income tax returns in May of 2012 for individuals in the San Jose area.  Nguyen told unemployed individuals that he was able to secure a tax refund on their behalf.  He then obtained the individuals’ names and social security numbers and used that information to prepare tax returns.  In each case, he claimed the person was employed and had earned income.  Nguyen charged each person a fee of between $50 and $500 for preparing the false tax return and was typically paid after the IRS issued a tax refund check related the false claim he filed.  When completing the false tax returns, Nguyen included fictitious information.  For example, instead of using a taxpayer’s real home address, Nguyen used an address where he was able to intercept the mail.  Nguyen also included false information for wages, federal tax withholdings, earned income tax credit, making work pay credit, and tax refund amounts.

In addition, in June of 2012, Nguyen conspired with others to file false federal income tax returns.  As part of the conspiracy, Nguyen and his co-conspirators solicited individuals in the San Jose area, asking only for their names and social security numbers.  Nguyen received forms that were signed by the individuals and then altered information on the forms by, among other things, inserting figures into the document.  Nguyen also rented several private mailboxes and used numerous addresses on Senter Road in San Jose as well as other residential addresses in order to collect the tax refund checks that were issued by the IRS.  In total, Nguyen and his coconspirators filed about 1,700 false federal income tax returns that claimed more than $1.5 million in fraudulent tax refunds. 

A grand jury indicted Nguyen on June 10, 2015, and charged him with conspiracy to submit false claims, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 286, and twenty-one counts of submitting false claims, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 287.  Pursuant to yesterday’s plea agreement, Nguyen pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and four counts of filing false claims.  The remaining counts will be dismissed.

The maximum sentence for conspiracy to file false claims is ten years in prison and a fine of $250,000.  The maximum sentence for submitting file false claims is five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.  However, any sentence will be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Newman and U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorney Gregory Bernstein are prosecuting the case.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Postal Service and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.

Updated June 22, 2017

Financial Fraud