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June 4, 2004

Man gets 5 years for swindling nearly $400K from deaf folks

From: Salt Lake Tribune, UT - Jun 4, 2004

Thuc Tri Nguyen swindled $389,835 from Utah's deaf community, but said Thursday he would pay it all back in a year, if granted probation.

Third District Judge Judith Atherton, though, scoffed at the promise and sent Nguyen to prison for up to five years.

Atherton noted that Nguyen has been paying restitution at the rate of $50 per month since pleading guilty to securities fraud violations two years ago.

At that rate, the judge calculated, it would take Nguyen 649 years to compensate his eight Utah victims.

Nguyen -- who is deaf and communicated through an interpreter during the court hearing -- used his unique relationship with the deaf community to gain his victims' trust.

Assistant Utah Attorney General Neal Gunnarson said Nguyen made false claims to encourage investment in Safari Media, which is owned by an Arizona couple facing trial in that state.

Nguyen, who has promised to testify against the owners, has pleaded guilty in Arizona to defrauding scores of victims there.

Gunnarson said Nguyen promised huge profits, no risk and said investors could cash out their stock at any time.

"He got their confidence, but there was tremendous risk," Gunnarson said.

-- Stephen Hunt

© Copyright 2004, The Salt Lake Tribune.