Former L.A. County social worker pleads guilty in identity theft

This is a follow-up to a case previously reported on this blog but adds more details about the number of victims and crime.

A former employee with the Los Angeles County Department of Social Services pleaded guilty this past week to federal charges and admitted that he filed federal tax returns in the names of 197 different people that fraudulently sought more than $2 million in refunds.

Trang Van Dinh, 62, of El Monte, pleaded guilty to two counts of filing false claims against the United States. Dinh pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Jacqueline Nguyen, who scheduled a sentencing hearing for June 27, at which time Dinh will face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

Dinh, who formerly worked as an eligibility worker for the county social services agency, used his position to obtain the names and social security numbers he used to file the fraudulent tax returns. Dinh, who worked for Los Angeles County from 1999 through 2009, and was responsible for conducting home visits, interviews and other efforts to determine whether individuals who applied for public assistance such as Cal Works were entitled to benefits from such programs. Through his job, Dinh had access to the names, financial information and social security numbers of a large number of people who were part of his caseload.

In a plea agreement filed in federal court, Dinh admitted that he filed fraudulent tax returns in 2009 and 2010. Some of the tax returns claimed business losses, while others claimed non-existent dependents. All of the returns were filed electronically and requested direct deposit of the federal tax refund to a bank account controlled by Dinh. In all instances, Dinh filed the fictitious returns without the knowledge, consent or authorization of the person whose name he had used to file the return.

The 197 returns filed by Dinh sought refunds totaling $2,212,996. The Internal Revenue Service issued refund checks that totaled $1,156,374. Banks, alerted to the fraud, were able to seize some of the funds, but Dinh was able to access $667,034.

Although Dinh’s activities did not result in permanent financial harm for the individuals whose names he used to file the fictitious tax returns, many individuals experienced difficulty and delay in filing their true tax returns because IRS records indicated that a tax return had already been filed.

The tax fraud and identity theft case was investigated by IRS – Criminal Investigation.

Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California

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