SANTA ANA, Calif.—A former Orange County social worker was sentenced on Sept. 18 to nearly five years in federal prison for stealing the identities of clients to finance a gambling addiction.
John Tran was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge James Selna, who also ordered him to pay $1.1 million in restitution, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Mr. Tran wrote a letter to Mr. Selna last week, saying he was "shamefully aware of what I have done."
"I take full responsibility for my actions and the pain it has caused to the victims and my family," he said. "I am truly sorry and I understand that I must be held accountable."
Mr. Tran said he turned to identity theft because of his "long-standing gambling addiction. It was relentless; I had tunnel vision, and I lost a lot of close friends as a result. It was this case that made me realize that I must confront my addiction head-on and seek treatment."
He said he has been in counseling "for years," and that when he gets out of prison, "I hope to help members of my community who suffer from the same addiction."
In addition, Mr. Tran said, he has been active in his church "to give back what I can to the community," and added, "I hope one day to make amends with the victims, but I realize that day may never come. I hope one day that I can be looked upon in [pride] by my son and not in shame or embarrassment."
Mr. Tran—who is believed to be either 57 or 61, according to prosecutors—pleaded guilty in November 2019 to conspiracy to defraud the federal government, three counts of mail fraud and a count of aggravated identity theft.
He worked for the Orange County Social Services Administration from July 1994 until October 2018 and stole the identities of clients, including recent immigrants, prosecutors said.
From August 2010 until June 2019, Mr. Tran and others used the stolen personal information to file bogus federal and state tax returns and to get welfare benefits as well as opening up credit cards and other lines of credit in their names, prosecutors said.
Mr. Tran convinced one victim to let him use his credit card, on which he charged about $14,000, prosecutors said.
Co-defendant Anton Nguyen, 54, of Fountain Valley, who owns a Westminster-based tax preparation business, was sentenced last month to 41 months behind bars and ordered to pay $3.7 million in restitution for his part in the conspiracy.
Another co-defendant, Rosemary Pham, 65, of Midway City, who also prepares taxes, pleaded guilty July 14 and is awaiting sentencing.