By Stuart Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times
Trang Van Dinh, 63, is sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for filing nearly 200 fraudulent tax returns in the names of people who had applied for public assistance.
A former Los Angeles County welfare worker was sentenced Monday to 46 months in federal prison for filing nearly 200 fraudulent tax returns in the names of people who had applied for public assistance.
Trang Van Dinh of El Monte pleaded guilty in February to two felony counts of filing false tax returns, admitting that he used needy clients' personal information to file false tax returns in their names in 2009 and 2010.
In addition to the prison time, U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Nguyen ordered the 63-year-old Dinh to pay $667,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service for refunds he received through the scheme.
Dinh spent 10 years as an eligibility worker for the county's Department of Public Social Services, helping determine whether needy people were entitled to welfare and other public assistance.
The judge noted that Dinh "preyed on vulnerable people" who were indigent and seeking help. Several victims said their tax refunds were delayed because Dinh had secretly filed false returns in their names.
Dinh's attorney, Neha Mehta of the federal public defender's office, had argued for a sentence of one year in prison followed by home confinement for six months. She said her client was an otherwise law-abiding person who stole the money to support a gambling problem that had developed because of marital problems. She said Dinh lost his job as a result of his conviction.
In a letter to the court, Dinh acknowledged wrongdoing. "I did an unforgivable thing.… I deserve to be punished," he said in the letter.
Dinh flew fighter jets for South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, according to his attorney, Mehta. After South Vietnam was defeated in 1975, Dinh was arrested by the North Vietnam government and sentenced to eight years of hard labor for treason. He moved to the United States in 1993 and was tormented by the atrocities of the war and his subsequent imprisonment, she said.