Terry Nguyen, a serial Southern California thief, should have stayed home on Nov. 21, 2014, but he tempted fate and lost.
To help him remember a stolen social security number (SSN), a product-toting Nguyen (a.k.a. Tan Thanh Nguyen) walked up to a cashier at the Bella Terra shopping center Kohl's in Huntington Beach with the nine, swiped digits written in ink on his left hand.
When asked for his store credit card, the convicted felon said he'd left it at home but suggested the cashier could locate his account by using his social security number.
The employee checked, discovered the account belonged to an out-of-state woman, voiced her finding and watched a startled Nguyen run out of the store so quickly he left his picture ID on the counter.
Seconds later an alert store security officer observed the identity thief enter the lobby of the Hotel Huntington Beach across the street. Police arrived at room 434 to find Nguyen and fellow Garden Grove crook, Anh Thy Giusti (a.k.a. Kristina Anh Thy Giusti). The stolen SSN for a Florida woman remained partially observable on Nguyen's flesh despite his effort to remove it.
Subsequent property searches seized more than a dozen computers, cell phones, an embosser, a skimming device, a foiling tipping machine, a computerized ID theft program for crooks, more than 1,000 gift, debit and credit cards and 14 individual packets of methamphetamine.
The stolen SSN's had been purchased on the Internet.
According to a U.S. Postal Service inspector who filed a criminal complaint against the duo inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, Nguyen and Giusti continued committing ID theft crimes for two more months until they were re-arrested for separate incidents that attracted the attention of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.
This week, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Guilford, who sealed key portions of the case from public inspection, sentenced Nguyen, 32, to a prison term of 27 months and ordered $3,131 in restitution.
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His rap sheet includes convictions for ID thefts, grand theft, receiving stolen property and burglary; crimes that locked him up for more than four years.
Giusti—a mother and 45-year-old career criminal with prior convictions for ID theft, forgery, grand theft and petty theft—received a tougher punishment of 70 months in prison and a $149,786 restitution order.
She is now residing in the federal correctional institution at Dublin.
Nguyen remains in OC awaiting transfer to prison.