Michael Nguyen Demonstrates How to Steal $700,000: Join the Army, Rob the Needy

Ten thousand here, ten thousand there, soon we're talking real money
It did look a little suspicious: After serving a year in Iraq, Fort Lewis Army Capt. Michael Nguyen returned home and began putting money in the bank - lots of it: $387,550, all cash. Hoping the IRS didn't notice, he limited each deposit to less than $10,000 as he went from bank to bank in the Portland area.

It's their job, so the IRS did notice. They began an investigation. And the other day Nguyen went off to prison for 30 months.

Where'd he get the cash? Wad by wad, he filched it from U.S. taxpayers, he admitted. From April 2007 through June 2008 as battalion civil affairs officer in Muqdadiyah, Nguyen was in charge of a cash flow of millions intended for distribution to Iraqi humanitarian relief agencies, to finance rebuilding projects and for security services.

Almost daily, Nguyen peeled currency from the bundled stacks and stuffed it into boxes, then sent it home to Beaverton, ultimately amassing $696,750. No one missed it in Iraq, where as much as $13 billion in aid has been stolen or wasted.

According to U.S. District Court documents in Portland, Nguyen spent the taxpayer funds on a 2008 BMW M3, a 2009 Hummer H3T and numerous items of personal property including computers, electronics and furniture valued at more than $200,000.

The U.S. was able to recover about half-a-million-dollars in assets including a $300,000 cash stash in Nguyen's attic. When he gets out in 2012, his restitution tab will be around $200,000. He should undergo mental health evaluation as well, a judge ordered. First question: What the hell were you thinking, captain?

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