Fountain Valley Man Pleads Guilty to Political Money Laundering for Janet Nguyen

A Fountain Valley man pled guilty and was sentenced Friday afternoon for laundering $13,300 in campaign contributions for Republican State Sen. Janet Nguyen’s 2012 campaign for county supervisor.

Son Truong Nguyen, 39, pled to 10 misdemeanor counts of unlawful contributions and was sentenced to three years of informal probation, a $5,000 fine and 40 hours of community service in lieu of jail. He will also be barred from being involved in any political campaigns during his probation, according to a press release by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Son Nguyen’s conviction is part of a joint investigation by the DA and the state Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) that began in 2012. He will also have to pay a $20,000 fine to the FPPC.

Between between November 2011 and the end of January 2012, Son Nguyen reimbursed a total of $13,300 to people who contributed to Janet Nguyen’s 2012 election campaign committee, according to the DA’s complaint.

Nguyen’s campaign forms during her re-election campaign for Supervisor drew scrutiny for a large number of unemployed donors, nearly 60 individuals between 2009 and 2012.

At the time, the First District Supervisor defended the large numbers of unemployed people contributing to her campaign in the past by saying that her own grassroots background and the nature of her heavily immigrant district has required her to rely on smaller contributions, rather than deep-pocketed donors, for fundraising.

In 2014, Voice of OC reported that the FPPC subpoenaed 11 donors to the 2012 committee for financial, phone and communication records, but had to appear before an Orange County Superior Court judge last October when the donors hired an attorney in an attempt to block the subpoenas.

The court documents submitted by the FPPC cited evidence showing patterns of money laundering: contributions from individuals with the same home address and employer; misreported addresses, occupation and employer information; and individuals listed as ‘unemployed’ or ‘student’ giving significant amounts of money.

Of those 11 donors, Son Nguyen was charged by the DA for reimbursing at least two: Vinh Phuoc Du for $1,500 and Troy Thang Nguyen, for contributions worth $1,500 and $1,300, respectively, according to the DA’s complaint. He also reimbursed Troy Nguyen another $1,000 through his Garden Grove-based CD and DVD rental store, Mickie Music, according to the complaint.

Son Nguyen also illegally reimbursed four other individuals, Susan Nguyen ($1,400), Thanh Nguyen ($1,500), Michael Nguyen ($1,300) and Helen Nguyen ($1,500), according to the complaint.

The subpoenaed donors also include Tony Lam, a political ally of Sen. Nguyen who is known for becoming the first Vietnamese American elected official when he was elected to the Westminster City Council.

The subpoenas were granted.

Meanwhile, Voice of OC also reported in 2014 similar patterns of individuals contributing under different business entities but from the same home address in Placentia — a total of $34,000 from a single household.

FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga said the case against Son Nguyen is closed, although he would not comment on the status of the investigation into Janet Nguyen’s 2012 political campaign committee.

Wierenga said in an email that they found “insufficient evidence the candidate (Janet Nguyen) knew of or was aware of the laundered funds.”

DA spokeswoman Roxi Fyad declined to comment.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.