Michael Minh Nguyen. Photo via Orange County District Attorney's Office
Michael Minh Nguyen. Photo via Orange County District Attorney’s Office
A former Placentia financial services manager pleaded guilty Friday and was immediately sentenced to 25 years in prison for embezzling nearly $5.2 million from the city.

Michael Minh Nguyen, 34, of Irvine, admitted 106 felony counts, which includes 36 counts for theft of public funds, 67 counts for money laundering, two counts of altering public records and a count of kiting a check to help cover up his c rimes, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Marc Labreche.

Arrest warrants for $2.3 million have been issued for two co-defendants charged in the case, Labreche said.

Authorities are seeking Michael Todd McDonald, 40, of Henderson, Nevada, and Herbert Norris Trotter, 25, of Los Angeles, Labreche said.

They are charged with misappropriation of public funds and money laundering under a legal theory of aiding and abetting Nguyen, the prosecutor added.

Nguyen wired some of the money to McDonald, who is a professor gambler, in Las Vegas, Labreche alleged. Trotter runs the Talaton Group, which touts itself as a company that helps clients with business funding, Labreche said.

When asked if the defendant had a gambling problem, Labreche replied, “Mr. Nguyen had a theft problem.”

Nguyen “had nothing to show for the money,” Labreche said.

Nguyen was day-trading some of the money “not necessarily well,” the prosecutor said.

It appears McDonald and Trotter were grifting Nguyen, Labreche said.

Labreche said he has recovered about $2.9 of the stolen money, but when adding up fees and other expenses the “net loss” to the city was nearly $2.7 million, Labreche said.

If Nguyen had gone to trial and was convicted of all charges he would have been facing 97 years and four months in prison, Labreche said.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Gary Paer offered the plea bargain to the defendant.

“If you embezzle public funds such as Mr. Nguyen did be prepared for the consequences,” Paer said, explaining that he hoped the punishment would send a message.

“You’ll get significant punishment and loss of freedom,” Paer said. “According to the city, it’s going to take awhile to recover from Mr. Nguyen’s (thefts).”

Paer said the punishment is “almost equivalent to a murder sentence,” except that he won’t have to depend on a parole board setting him free.

Nguyen has 660 days of credit served in the case and must serve at least half of the remainder of the sentence.

Paer fined Nguyen $10.3 million and ordered him to pay $2.6 million in restitution.

“The embezzlement and theft of publif funds is an affront to the people of Placentia and to our hard-working employees,” said City Administrator Damien R. Arrula.

“It was of grave concern to learn that a then-city employee would exploit his position and knowledge of our internal controls for personal gain,” Arrula said. “We hope the arrest and prosecution of Mr. Nguyen sends a clear message that these types of activities will not be tolerated. We have worked diligently with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to recover $3.1 million and are working on recovering the balance of the $5.1 million stolen funds.”

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