GLENDALE — A Glendale man was arrested Monday on suspicion of defrauding the IRS of more than $2 million by using the personal information of his social service clients to file bogus tax returns, officials said.
Trang Van Dinh, 62, who had worked for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services, was arrested Monday at Los Angeles International Airport after returning from a trip to Vietnam, according to the U.S. district attorney's office.
Prosecutors charged him with 22 counts of making false claims and identity theft after investigators discovered that he had stolen the Social Security numbers of 176 low-income clients to file tax returns, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Angela Davis of the Major Frauds Section.
"This is a person who was put in a position of public trust," she said. "It was his job to help people and to do his job honestly for L.A. County, and he used his position to do a very egregious crime that created a lot of problems for a lot of people, and also tried to steal $2 million from the federal government."
Dinh worked for a decade as a county eligibility worker and interviewer, according to the U.S. district attorney's office. His clients typically sought help acquiring county-supplied benefits, including food stamps and temporary employment and financial assistance.
In evaluating their finances and making home visits, Davis said Dinh "had access to a lot of personal information."
Dinh used the information to file fraudulent electronic tax returns, requesting that IRS refunds be sent to several bank accounts set up in his name, which tipped off investigators to the scheme, Davis said.
When the clients tried to file their true tax return, they were unable to get a tax refund because the IRS already had a record of them receiving it, she said.
Bank officials froze some of the money before Dinh was able to withdraw the funds, but he was able to withdraw $650,000, according to the U.S. district attorney's office.
IRS officials declined to comment on the case because it is under investigation.
If convicted, Dinh faces a maximum sentence of 220 years in federal prison. He is scheduled to be arraigned later this month.