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Financial Crimes

Vietnamese man sentenced to 6 years for defrauding banks of nearly $600,000

SEATTLE — A Vietnamese national was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for aggravated identity theft and bank fraud connected to a credit card fraud scheme, which netted nearly $600,000.

Chi Ahn Nguyen, 45, formerly of Seattle, admitted in a plea agreement last August that he defrauded banks by exploiting the "float time" from when a credit card bill is considered paid and when the actual payment is received.

An investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) uncovered losses totaling more than $588,000 from eight financial institutions, including Tukwila-based Boeing Employees' Federal Credit Union (BECU), Bank of America and Chase Bank.

According to court records, Nguyen used the identities of five other individuals, some of whom participated in the scheme, to access the credit card accounts from February 2011 to December 2011. He submitted payments to the credit card issuers using phony bank account information, knowing the banks would immediately increase the credit line before the payment cleared. He then withdrew the cash value through advances and purchases, before the banks became aware of the fraudulent payment. He obtained cash advances at Seattle-area casinos and made purchases at a Tacoma jewelry story and several Chicago-area merchants.

Nguyen also pleaded guilty to a separate bank fraud scheme that he perpetrated in early 2012 in the Chicago area. In addition to prison time, Nguyen was ordered pay restitution of more than $592,000, five years' supervised release and to participate in drug treatment and Gambler's Anonymous.

Two of Nguyen's co-conspirators, Son Pham and Phone Phommavanh, also pleaded guilty to bank fraud. Pham will be sentenced Feb. 7. Phommavanh's sentencing is scheduled for March 7.

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