O.C. tax preparer pleads guilty to conspiring with social worker to perpetrate fraud schemes that caused $3.8 million in losses


Date: April 10, 2023

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

Santa Ana, Calif. — An Orange County tax preparer pleaded guilty today to a federal criminal charge for participating in schemes that caused nearly $3.8 million in losses to the United States government, including one orchestrated by a corrupt social worker who stole his clients' identities to fraudulently obtain tax refunds, welfare benefits and credit cards.

Anton Nguyen, of Fountain Valley, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

According to his plea agreement, Nguyen operated a Westminster-based tax preparation company called Century Tax & Travel. From 2012 to June 2019, Nguyen and his co-conspirators filed hundreds of tax returns using personal identifying information (PII) belonging to other individuals without their permission to generate fraudulent tax refund payments from the United States.

One of Nguyen's co-conspirators was John Tran, who is believed to be either 57 or 61 years old, of Fountain Valley, an Orange County Social Services Agency case worker from July 1994 to October 2018, who stole the Social Security numbers and other personal identifying information (PII) from his clients – many of them recent immigrants.

Tran and his co-conspirators used this stolen information to fraudulently obtain money from the federal government, the State of California, the County of Orange, and financial institutions. Nguyen used the stolen identities that Tran provided to create fraudulent Forms 1099-MISC that falsely showed payments made to the identity theft victims by companies, including those controlled by Tran and other accomplices.

Nguyen prepared and filed federal income tax returns using the Tran-provided stolen identities. Nguyen then 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.

In total, Nguyen and his co-conspirators defrauded the United States out of at least $3,773,282.

United States District Judge James V. Selna scheduled a July 24 sentencing hearing, at which time Nguyen will face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.

Federal prosecutors have secured a total of seven guilty pleas to criminal charges connected to this scheme.

Tran pleaded guilty in November 2019 to conspiracy to defraud the United States, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. Tran is scheduled to be sentenced on June 5, at which time he will face a statutory maximum sentence of 72 years in federal prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in federal prison.

Chau Nguyen, of Garden Grove; Sophie Thuy Nguyen, of Westminster; Kevin Le, of Anaheim Hills; Van Quach, of Monterey Park; and Peter Duc Nguyen, of Garden Grove, each 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.

Thomas Nguyen, of Santa Ana, pleaded guilty in June 2021 to one count of tax evasion. He was fined $30,000 and ordered to pay $133,796 in restitution.

Rosemary Pham, of Midway City, the owner and operator of Victory Tax Service in Westminster, has pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and 10 counts of aiding and advising the filing of false tax returns. Her trial date is scheduled for August 15.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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 is prosecuting this case.