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Financial Crimes

Fraudster who used firearm to collect debts sentenced to prison

SEATTLE — A co-conspirator in a bank fraud scheme who used a firearm to intimidate others into paying debts was sentenced last week to six years in federal prison, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Son Pham, 45, admitted he loaned money to people in his community and then used threats of violence to try to collect the debts. According to his plea agreement, in October 2012, Pham arranged for one of his cohorts to be armed with a pistol when a group confronted an associate of someone who owed Pham $10,000. They surrounded the victim at the Macau Casino in Tukwila and demanded the money while brandishing a gun. In a second instance, Pham tried to collect a $2,000 debt by threatening to send people to the victim's home to "cut him."

Pham was also involved in a credit card fraud scheme with co-conspirator Chi Ahn Nguyen. According to records filed in the case, Pham conspired with ring leader Nguyen to defraud banks by running up credit card and cash advance debts that they never intended to repay. The men used the identities of others – many of whom participated in the scheme – to 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. The men then took a share of the proceeds derived from those transactions.

Pham pleaded guilty in November 2013 to bank fraud, carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and two counts of attempted collection of extensions of credit by extortionate means. At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik ordered Pham to pay $115,690 in restitution for the bank fraud scheme.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington prosecuted the case.