San Jose Priest Imprisoned For Stealing $1.4 Million In Donations

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – A Roman Catholic priest from San Jose who was convicted earlier this year of bank fraud for diverting parishioners’ donations into his personal bank account was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison, federal prosecutors said.

Hien Minh Nguyen, 57, who once ran the Vietnamese Catholic Center for the Diocese of San Jose, was found guilty in March of 14 counts of bank fraud by U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman after a non-jury trial.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Nguyen stole cash donations from parishioners, signed checks drawn on the Vietnamese Catholic Center’s bank accounts to pay his personal expenses, and deposited checks made payable to the center into his personal bank account.

In all, Nguyen stole at least $1.4 million from the diocese between 2005 and 2011, prosecutors said.

He previously pleaded guilty in August 2016 to four counts of tax evasion after being arrested in Florida in April 2015 and indicted in December of that year on both the tax evasion and bank fraud charges.

Along with the prison term, Nguyen was also ordered by the judge to pay $1.88 million in restitution — $1.44 million to the Diocese of San Jose and more than $434,000 to the Internal Revenue Service—and will serve three years of supervised release, prosecutors said.

Nguyen was a priest with the diocese since 1995 but was on a personal leave of absence since December 2013, diocese officials said.

He directed the Vietnamese Catholic Center from 2001 to 2011 and was also a pastor at St. Patrick’s church, now known as Our Lady of La Vang, diocese officials said.

© Copyright 2017 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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