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Immigration agent allegedly demanded egg rolls for citizenship

PoliticsImmigrationJustice SystemCrime, Law and JusticeCourts and the JudiciaryFBIU.S. Department of Homeland Security

An immigration officer who demanded that a Vietnamese immigrant pick up hundreds of egg rolls and deliver them for an office party will stand trial later this year on bribery charges.

Mai Nhu Nguyen, an Irvine resident, allegedly took thousands of dollars from three applicants seeking citizenship or lawful permanent resident status, authorities contend.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employee was indicted last summer has been ordered to stand trial in June at U.S. District Court in Santa Ana.

Authorities arrested Nguyen, 47, last June after she allegedly accepted a $2,200 bribe from an immigrant awaiting citizenship.

Nguyen initially asked the woman for $3,000, noting that her application was very "complex," but the woman was about to return to Vietnam and didn't have enough cash, according to investigators.

After her trip, she allegedly met up with Nguyen and handed over the payment.

An earlier criminal complaint said that the defendant solicited and accepted other bribes in 2011, including $1,000 from a woman hoping for a green card.

In that case, Nguyen ordered the applicant to go to Quang Minh market in Little Saigon and buy a fish sauce package and insert the money inside it, promising to meet the applicant at the checkout.

The woman did as she was directed, and as she walked out of the grocery store, Nguyen greeted her, said "it's me," took the bag and drove away in a green minivan, according to the complaint.

In another instance, Nguyen called a vendor to order 300 egg rolls, asking an applicant to pick up and pay for the the $150 food order and deliver it to her  workplace, according to the complaint.

Nguyen later approved the immigrant's paperwork, the complaint says.

Nguyen has worked at the USCIS office in Santa Ana for nearly eight years, tasked with the power to approve or decline applications for immigration benefits.

The charges against her resulted from a joint investigation by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. Each count of bribery by a public official carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.

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E-mail: anh.do@latimes.com
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