SANTA ANA, California – The owner of a Westminster-based tax preparation business was sentenced today to 41 months in federal prison for participating in a scheme orchestrated by a corrupt social worker who stole his clients’ identities to fraudulently obtain tax refunds, welfare benefits and credit cards.
Anton Nguyen, 54, of Fountain Valley, was sentenced by United States District Judge James V. Selna, who also ordered him to pay $3,773,282 in restitution.
Nguyen pleaded guilty on April 10 to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Nguyen conspired with John Tran, who is believed to be either 57 or 61, of Fountain Valley, an Orange County Social Services Agency case worker from July 1994 to October 2018. Tran stole the Social Security numbers and other personal identifying information (PII) from his clients – many of them recent immigrants.
From August 2010 to June 2019, Tran and his co-conspirators used the stolen information to fraudulently obtain money from the federal government, the State of California, the County of Orange and financial institutions.
During this time, Nguyen owned and operated Century Travel & Tax, a tax preparation company based in Westminster. Nguyen joined the conspiracy in 2012 and used the Tran-provided stolen identities to create fraudulent Forms 1099-MISC purporting to show payments made to the identity theft victims by companies, including those controlled by Tran and other co-conspirators. He also helped his accomplices set up shell companies to promote the scheme.
Nguyen prepared and filed federal income tax returns using the Tran-provided stolen identities. He also used the purported payments on the fraudulent Forms 1099 as income to the identify theft victims, making them appear to qualify for tax credits, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.
In turn, the reported payments to the identity theft victims were used by Nguyen’s clients to offset business revenues and reduce the taxes they owed by making it appear that the identity theft victims worked for them. In exchange for the fabrication of the Forms 1099, Nguyen’s clients paid him a fee.
Tran and his co-conspirators filed 433 tax returns using PII belonging to other individuals, generating at least $973,153 in fraudulently obtained tax refund payments from the United States.
In total, Nguyen, aided by accomplices, defrauded the United States out of the payment of at least $3,773,282 in taxes.
“This was an appreciably sophisticated tax evasion scheme, involving the theft and improper use of PII by a civil servant to generate fraudulent deductions for businesses,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. “For the scheme to succeed, tax preparers, like [Nguyen], were essential.”
As for other defendants charged in connection with this conspiracy:
- Tran pleaded guilty in November 2019 to conspiracy to defraud the United States with respect to claims, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. He is scheduled to be sentenced on September 19.
- Rosemary Pham, 65, of Midway City, the owner and operator of Victory Tax Service in Westminster, pleaded guilty on July 14 to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and one count of aiding and advising the filing of false tax returns. She faces up to eight years in federal prison at her sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for October 30.
- Kevin Le, 57, of Anaheim Hills, pleaded guilty in May 2021 to one count of evasion of assessment of tax. On May 10, Judge Selna sentenced Le to six months in federal prison, fined him $15,000, and ordered him to pay $2,936,088 in restitution.
- Thomas Nguyen, 62, of Santa Ana, pleaded guilty in June 2021 to one count of tax evasion. In May 2022, Judge Selna fined him $30,000 and ordered him to pay $133,796 in restitution.
- Van Quach, 43, of Monterey Park, pleaded guilty in May 2021 to one count of evasion of assessment of tax. On May 10, Judge Selna sentenced Quach to two years of probation, fined him $5,500, and ordered him to pay $231,340 in restitution.
- Peter Duc Nguyen, 63, of Garden Grove, pleaded guilty in April 2022 to one count of tax evasion. On May 10, he was sentenced to two years of probation and was ordered to pay $187,295 in restitution.
- Two remaining defendants, Chau Nguyen, 69, of Garden Grove, and Sophie Thuy Nguyen, 48, of Westminster, have pleaded guilty to evasion of assessment of taxes and are scheduled to be sentenced later this year, at which time they will each face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
IRS Criminal Investigation, with assistance from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Bradley E. Marrett of the Santa Ana Branch Office prosecuted this case.