Lake Forest Woman Gets 20 Months for COVID-19 Fraud

Handcuffs over newspaper with the word fraud

Photo: RapidEye / E+ / Getty Images

SANTA ANA (CNS) - A 65-year-old Lake Forest woman who participated in a scheme to rip off a program that aided struggling small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic was sentenced Monday to 20 months in federal prison.

Hanna Trinh Dinh pleaded guilty Oct. 2 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for helping her brother, Dr. Anthony Hao Dinh, 64, of Newport Coast,  in submitting multiple fraudulent loan applications requesting $260,672 through a phony shell company, according to prosecutors.

Anthony Dinh, who is awaiting trial, operated clinics in Westminster and Garden Grove at the time.

Hanna Dinh's attorney, Stanley Friedman, asked U.S. Judge James Selna to sentence his client to 18 months behind bars while prosecutors advocated for 30 months in prison. Dinh, who has been in custody since early May of last year, will be placed on three years of supervised release when she completes her time behind bars and be placed in home confinement for seven months of the supervised release.

Selna waived the $10,000 fine when Friedman argued she couldn't afford to pay it. The judge noted she had a net worth of about $780,000, but it was "not liquid."

Hanna Dinh "has a desire to care for her elderly mother, pregnant daughter and husband," Friedman said of the defendant.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Hsieh noted Hanna Dinh helped create a shell company and followed up with PayPal when a $125,000 transfer was rejected because the name of the bank account did not match a doctored name she provided.

"Undeterred, defendant opened a shell bank account in the name of `HD Financial Firm' and called PayPal multiple times in an attempt to get them to resend the $125,000," Hsieh said in court papers.

She also sent a phony IRS form to back up another bogus Paycheck Protection Program loan application.

When authorities attempted to arrest her in April of last year she evaded investigators and fled to Vietnam, Hsieh said. Hanna Dinh was on a cruise in April of last year with a scheduled stop in Vancouver when she decided that instead of flying back to self-surrender she bought a ticket to Vietnam, Hsieh said.

Hanna Dinh's attorneys argued it was a misunderstanding.

"It was a very unusual time for us all," Friedman said of the pandemic. "She acted in a way that doesn't represent the balance of her life. It was out of character."

Selna said he was "troubled" by the fraud.

"She took advantage of an emergency situation," Selna said. "To me, that's quite troubling. If she went in and got a mortgage loan and jimmied the numbers that's fraud, yes, but I wouldn't have found it as offensive as this kind of fraud."

Friedman emphasized that his client's chances of "recidivism is very low."

Selna settled in part on the 20-month punishment "given her age."

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content