LAPD officer is a target in voter letter inquiry

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State investigators have searched the home of a Los Angeles Police Department officer they believe played a key role in mailing out thousands of racially charged letters to Latino voters in an Orange County congressional district this month.

The officer has been identified as Mark Nhan Nguyen, 32, a three-year veteran of the force who works as a collision investigator in South Los Angeles, according to sources familiar with an ongoing investigation by the state attorney general into the letter and whether the mailing violated any laws.

Mark Nguyen lives in the same house as a campaign staffer for Republican congressional candidate Tan Nguyen, who is running an underdog effort to unseat Democratic incumbent Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana).


Tan Nguyen, who is not related to the officer, has acknowledged that the campaign worker was involved in sending out the controversial letters. He said he fired her but has since offered to rehire her, saying he now believes the letter was accurate and legal.

Investigators have also identified the person believed to have written the letter, sources said.

The letter has been criticized by politicians across the country who called it an incendiary attempt to scare Latinos from the polls in next month’s elections. Nguyen has rejected calls that he quit the race and, on Wednesday, appeared on conservative talk radio to tout his campaign.

The search of Mark Nguyen’s home is another piece in the puzzle of a fast-unfolding investigation into who was responsible for the mailing. Investigators searched Tan Nguyen’s campaign office and home last week, hauling away computers and documents.

The letter falsely warned that immigrants could be jailed or deported for voting and claimed the state had developed a tracking system to turn over the names of Latino voters to anti-illegal immigrant groups. The letter was printed on what appeared to be the letterhead of a Huntington Beach-based group that favors tightening the border. The group said it had no involvement in the letter.

The voter list used to send the mailer contained the names of 14,000 registered Democrats with Latino surnames born outside of the United States. On Wednesday, the secretary of state’s office sent a corrective letter written in English and Spanish to those same voters, saying it contained “false and misleading information about your right to vote in California” and that it should be ignored.


Tan Nguyen said the letter was mailed without his knowledge. But others contend he was directly involved at various stages, including buying the list of voters to whom the mailer was sent and calling the mail house that printed it to speed up its production.

Mark and Tan Nguyen are described by people familiar with details of the investigation as close friends who met in college in 1992 at UCLA. Sources said Mark Nguyen contracted with a Huntington Beach mail house under an alias to produce the letter and then paid $4,000 for it on his credit card.

Mark Nguyen also contributed $2,100 to Tan Nguyen’s campaign. On federal contribution reports, he listed his occupation as a community service provider for the city of Los Angeles.

Mark Nguyen could not be reached for comment at his home or work telephone numbers, and a person at his home address said she had not seen him or the campaign staffer in a week.

“Mr. Nguyen will not comment publicly on this matter at this time,” said Wendy Sugg, his lawyer.

“We will provide all pertinent information to the appropriate authorities at such time it becomes necessary.”


Agents from the state attorney general’s office searched Mark Nguyen’s Anaheim home Friday afternoon, as search warrants were also being served at the candidate’s home and campaign headquarters.

The attorney general’s office has said it seized five computers from Nguyen’s campaign headquarters and other computers and documents in various searches.

The search warrant affidavits, filed in Orange County Superior Court, have been sealed. A computer and documents were taken in the search of Mark Nguyen’s home, a source said.

Though his home was searched, Mark Nguyen has not been interviewed by the attorney general’s investigators, sources said.

Officials from the LAPD’s internal affairs division were present, according to one source. The LAPD has not taken any action against Nguyen, and Capt. William Sutton, Nguyen’s commanding officer in the South Traffic division, said he could not comment.

Reached by telephone Wednesday, Tan Nguyen declined to comment on Mark Nguyen, saying he had already discussed details of the case “far and beyond” his lawyers’ recommendation.



Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.