An immigration service officer who accepted bribes of thousands of dollars and hundreds of egg rolls from people seeking citizenship and resident status was sentenced Monday to 30 months in federal prison, according to government officials.
United States District Court Judge Josephine L. Staton handed that term down to Mai Nhu Nguyen, 48, of Irvine, who worked eight years in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office in Santa Ana before she was placed on leave.
From 2011 through June 2013, Nguyen solicited and took bribes from Vietnamese immigrants. The more than 200 egg rolls were solicited from an applicant obtaining citizenship who was directed to bring the appetizers to a USCIS office party in Santa Ana, according to a three-count indictment.
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An applicant seeking legal residency was told to go to Quang Minh market in Little Saigon, purchase a fish sauce package and place an envelope containing $1,000 in the bag, reads the indictment. When the woman complied, Nguyen walked up in the Brookhurst Avenue-facing parking lot; said, "It's me"; grabbed the package; drove away; and later approved the application, according to prosecutors.
It was after another Vietnam native told investigators that Nguyen had demanded $3,000 to approve her application that a joint FBI-Department of Homeland Security operation gave the applicant cash and a body wire.
Investigators watched as she met Nguyen in the immigration agency's parking lot. She took the money inside her vehicle, said she might want more to approve the application, exited to return to her office--and was then surrounded by the undercover agents.