A San Jose woman was convicted last week of scamming more than $200,000 from people who sublet rooms to her because they thought she needed a hand up.
Loan Nguyen, 50, offered generous security deposits, and then abruptly withdrew the extra cash, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. She preyed on people’s trust and the kindness of her own community, said prosecutor Victor Chen, who works in the DA’s major fraud unit.
To lure people into her scheme, she would sometimes claim to have fled an abusive husband or that something tragic happened to her family. Prosecutors say the stories were fabricated and the checks used were nabbed from previous victims.
The checks bounced, leaving landlords with bad credit and overdrawn bank accounts. One of Loan’s victims, who previously had a perfect credit score, was forced to file for bankruptcy after falling for her scam.
After last week’s trial, Nguyen was found guilty of 21 felonies: six counts of first-degree burglary with hot prowl allegations, seven counts of grand theft by trick, two counts of dissuading a witness and six counts of passing a bad check.
Nguyen has a prior strike. She was convicted of first-degree burglary in 2014 in connection to a similar con. Months after getting out of jail she was at it again, answering classified ads in a local Vietnamese-language newspaper for room rentals. Within five months, she raked in $100,000 from her crimes.
This time, Nguyen could face more than 40 years in prison.
“The defendant targeted the Vietnamese community, portraying herself as someone who had overcome the same obstacles as they had to start a new life in this country,” Chen said in a statement. “This wasn’t her first time targeting this community. Hopefully it will be her last.”