South Seattle

Police: Woman used Vietnamese background to scam others

SEATTLE -- A 39-year-old woman is accused of using her Vietnamese background to convince other Vietnamese residents to cash bogus checks.

Investigators say Oanh Nguyen would seek out Vietnamese-speaking clients at the West Seattle DSHS office and, posing as a DSHS employee, would ask if they needed help completing their required forms.

She would then act as an interpreter at the office, with the DSHS employees figuring she was a friend of the client, and the client believing she worked at the office, according to Sgt. Cindi West with the King County Sheriff's Office.

After the visit was complete, Nguyen would then ask the clients to cash a check for her, claiming she didn't have a bank account.

"Many cases she actually succeeded getting cash from these individuals and at times she would go to the bank with them -- actually be there and act as a translator when they were depositing the check," West said. "Most of these people out of the kindness of their heart are helping her -- or thinking they're helping her -- and when they go to the bank and the teller gives the money, they figure the check is good not realizing the money is coming out of their account."

Nguyen has allegedly scammed over $60,000 from the unsuspecting families, West said. But Nguyen is also accused of a somewhat similar scam posing as a mortgage broker who promised to deposit mortgage payments from her Vietnamese clients but instead pocketed the money herself. West said those scams totaled about $30,000.

West fears there might be more victims.

"We're asking for anyone who has a Vietnamese family member who goes to the DSHS office in West Seattle or the one near Rainier Beach area, if they talk to their family members and see if they recognize this person or possibly have been the victim of one of her scams," West said.

Nguyen was booked last week but has since been released pending charges, which prosecutors expect to file Monday or Tuesday.