A 53-year-old man pleaded guilty and was immediately sentenced Wednesday to more than three years in prison for an identity-theft scam to steal multiple cars in Orange County dating back to 2014.
Thang Phuong Nguyen, who was sentenced to three years and eight months in prison, pleaded guilty to five counts each of car theft and identity theft. He also admitted sentencing enhancement allegations of aggravated white-collar crime between $100,000 to $500,000.
Nguyen stole seven cars from five victims, Senior Deputy District Attorney Dan Hess said. The cars were valued at $250,000, Hess added.
Top news of the day
"He would find other Vietnamese victims with similar names and he would steal their ID or access their driver's license numbers, post his picture on a fake driver's license and pose as the victim to buy a car or open up bank accounts or credit cards accounts or cell phone accounts," Hess said. "He was like `Invasion of the Body Snatchers.'"
Among the cars Nguyen stole were a Lexus MX450 and a Honda CRV EX, according to court records.
Nguyen used a fake ID to buy the Lexus in September, Tustin police Lt. Bob Wright said. The auto dealer ultimately determined the identification was fake and called police.
He was at the same dealer a couple of days later, so employees called police and he was arrested, Wright said.
The Honda was recovered in Westminster, Wright said.
Nguyen has a lengthy criminal record for burglary and identity theft, according to court records.
Nguyen pleaded guilty Dec. 28, 2016, to identity theft, burglary, forgery of public or corporate seals and possession of a forged driver's license, all felonies, and was sentenced to three years in jail, according to court records.
Nguyen pleaded guilty Aug. 5, 2014, to two counts of forgery, and was sentenced to six months in jail, but had nearly another year tacked on subsequently for probation violations, according to court records.
Nguyen also pleaded guilty to identity theft on Nov. 12, 2015, and was sentenced to 16 months in jail, according to court records.
Nguyen pleaded guilty Aug. 1, 2013, to burglary, possession of a forged driver's license, both felonies, and a misdemeanor count of falsely representing himself to an officer and was sentenced to 16 months in jail, according to court records.