Couple charged with defrauding Mower County
AUSTIN — An Austin couple faces multiple felonies after authorities say they defrauded the county out of more than $35,000 in services.
Loc Xuan Nguyen, 59, and Mui Sam Ly, 58, each have been charged in Mower County District Court with three counts of wrongfully obtaining assistance-theft.
Nguyen pleaded not guilty Thursday to all charges; he's due back in court June 12.
Ly's first appearance is set for Feb. 12.
The investigation began in July, when a woman told authorities she'd been renting her home from Nguyen since 2010, and he'd been using the home's address as his mailing address since she moved into the residence.
According to the criminal complaint, Nguyen told her he was using it because his girlfriend, Ly, needed welfare and medical assistance, so he didn't want county officials to know he was living with her, adding to her income.
Nguyen allegedly told the renter that if anyone from human services ever came to the house, she was to tell them he lived there. The woman said she typically delivered "a pile of mail" to Nguyen's home across town when she paid her rent every month.
As part of the investigation, authorities recorded a phone call the renter made to Nguyen, telling him she'd just been questioned by human services officials about his residency.
Nguyen reportedly told her, "you tell them that he has lots of houses. He comes in here and takes showers. He sleeps up there. You make the bed."
A week later, a search warrant was executed at Nguyen's home. Ly was there, the complaint says, and indicated that she and Nguyen shared the main floor bedroom, which contained male and female clothing as well as credit cards and IDs that belonged to Nguyen.
Ly later told the investigator that Nguyen's bedroom was on the second floor, and that he was only staying there to visit his daughter. One of Ly's adult sons said his mother slept in the upstairs bedroom and Nguyen stayed downstairs.
When Nguyen arrived at the house, he reportedly told the investigator he slept in the main floor bedroom of Ly's house two or three times per month, and the rest of the time in the upstairs bedroom at the renter's house, but couldn't describe that room.
According to the criminal complaint, Nguyen justified his deception by saying that Ly "needs help from the government."
Officials calculated the medical assistance overpayment received by Ly at nearly $26,000. The overpayment of food support was reportedly almost $10,500.
The charge for the medical assistance fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $100,000 fine or both. The two other counts are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a $20,000 fine or both.