A Little Saigon doctor with hefty California Republican Party connections isn't celebrating these holidays at home with family and friends.
Vietnam War refugee, Tuan Duc Tran–CEO of Fountain Valley Healthcare Center and the eldest son of a once high-ranking South Vietnamese Army officer–is now living in a federal prison in Kern County.
After being indicted on nine counts by a 2011 federal grand jury, Tran hired defense lawyer Steven Baric, then vice chairman of the California Republican Party and now a Rancho Santa Margarita city councilman–in an attempt to defeat the charges.
But that move didn't succeed and, in June, the doctor, who received a medical degree in the West Indies, formally admitted he'd operated a multi-year Medicare scam to steal more than $2.4 million from the U.S. Government.
“[Tran] administered medical tests in an improper manner so that he could claim that the test results demonstrated medical need for procedures when the patients, in reality, did not need the treatment,” according to Assistant United States Attorney Lawrence E. Kole.
Facing a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison, Tran–whose father also served as South Vietnam's military attache at Vietnam's Embassy in Washington, D.C. from 1966 to 1968–solicited the aid of the nation's first Vietnamese politician elected to a state legislature: Onetime Garden Grove Mayor Van Tran, a Republican.
Van Tran, who lost a bid to defeat Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez in 2010 and is now in private practice with Baric, told U.S. District Court Judge Josephine L. Staton that the Medicare cheater is “a man of good character, loyal to his friends and family, and always willing to help others when they are in need.”
Other character references–including Clear Channel official Robert R. Susnar III, called Tran a “great family man” with keen business skills as well as charitable instincts for the poor in Vietnam.
By the time of his sentencing hearing, Tran–who came to the U.S. in 1975 with his parents and siblings after the fall of Saigon and lived at Camp Pendleton–used a federal public defender as his representative; that lawyer argued the disgraced doctor should be punished only with a term of probation, in part, because this defendant's reputation in the medical profession is ruined.
But Judge Staton ordered Tran to begin serving an 18-month sentence this month and officials bused the 53-year-old man to Taft Correctional Institution, a privately-run federal prison for low-security inmates.
The judge also is requiring him to pay more than $777,000 in restitution.
Tran is due to emerge back into freedom in late March 2015, when he'll begin supervised probation for three additional years, according to records inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.