A U.S. Postal Service worker accused of stealing thousands of people's credit cards to buy luxury cars, watches and handbags for his wife is expected to plead guilty in federal court, authorities said Tuesday.
Prosecutors said that for the right price, Santa Ana mail processing worker Chinh Vuong would hide new American Express cards in his waistband – and he wouldn't leave work without them.
Vuong, 48, of Garden Grove, worked for the postal service for more than 20 years, prosecutors said. But in a one-year window between October 2014 and 2015, he stole more than 6,200 American Express cards. The total loss from his actions is estimated to be more than $3.1 million, court documents allege.
Vuong would hide the new cards meant for customers in his waistband and would take them out to his car during breaks, prosecutors said. He'd allegedly sell the cards to identity thieves – 11 for $500 or 132 for $5,000.
But the scheme eventually caught up with Vuong. Court documents say he ended up selling stolen cards to an undercover investigator.
"The overwhelming majority of postal service employees work conscientiously to move the nation's mail to its proper destination. When that trust is compromised the United States Postal Inspection Service takes proper investigative steps to have them and their co-conspirators prosecuted," said Robert Wemyss, postal inspector for the agency's Los Angeles division in a statement.
When Vuong was arrested, authorities found more than 20 luxury handbags in his home from brands like Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. There were two BMWs in his driveway, luxury boots and a men's Burberry stainless steel watch, according to the documents.
Vuong was allegedly making up to $6,000 a month from the thefts. Prosecutors announced Tuesday that Vuong was expected to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft later this summer as part of a plea agreement. He faces up to 32 years in prison if convicted but will probably serve less time.
"Citizens need to rely on the security of the U.S. mail and the integrity of the postal carriers with whom their correspondence and their privacy is entrusted," said Deirdre Fike, the assistant director of the FBI's Los Angeles office, in a statement. "By lining his pockets through identity theft, Mr. Vuong breached the trust placed in him by citizens who paid his salary and the companies which sustained a financial loss."
For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.