The student group that organizes an annual Lunar New Year festival in Little Saigon has removed two of its top leaders for allegedly embezzling over $118,000, according to a press release posted to their website Monday morning.
After an internal investigation, the nonprofit Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California, or UVSA, ousted President Nina Tran and Treasurer Helen Nguyen and filed reports with the Garden Grove Police Department and California Attorney General’s office.
News of the allegations was first reported on Sunday by the Vietnamese language newspaper, Vien Dong Daily News.
Serious concerns about Tran’s management of the group’s finances arose during financial reviews of the 2013 Tet Festival, according to the press release.
The investigation, which was closed on April 24, found evidence of fraud, theft and embezzlement of charitable funds based on financial documents from Nov. 2012 through Nov. 2014.
Tran was found responsible for about $103,000 in stolen funds, including $33,224 recovered by UVSA during the investigation, while Nguyen is responsible for $15,000, according to the release.
In November 2014, Nina Tran and Helen Nguyen were confronted with irregularities ranging from personal credit card bill payments to repeated cash withdrawals from ATMs. Nina Tran and Helen Nguyen were given four weeks to provide documentation of expenses and spending of UVSA funds, which to this date has not been fully produced. Additionally, all existing bank accounts under their names were closed to prevent further access to organizational funds.
UVSA did not immediately return a call for comment.
The nonprofit has been the subject of controversy in recent years. It sparred with Garden Grove city leaders after the city sought a $75,000 fee for holding the festival in Garden Grove Park, where it had been held previous years. The festival acts as a fundraiser for UVSA and other local charities.
UVSA refused to pay the $75,000 fee — which would have benefited another nonprofit, the Vietnam War Museum of America — and moved the popular festival to the Orange County Fairgrounds.
Then-Mayor Bruce Broadwater, who sits on the museum’s board, had also raised concerns about UVSA’s finances, demanding the group conduct an audit.
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