Woman who tricked Oregon retiree out of $3M gets prison

PORTLAND, Ore.  — A manicurist who helped trick an Oregon retiree out of $3 million was sentenced Wednesday to 21 months in federal prison.

Thy Mihn Phan and her boyfriend led the victim to believe the money collected during a three-year scheme was to help with legal issues and a landscaping business. Instead, they blew almost every penny while enjoying a high-roller lifestyle at Las Vegas casinos, including Aria, Bellagio, Caesars Palace and MGM Grand.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Bradford said the victim lost everything he saved for retirement.

"They didn't just steal the victim's money," Bradford told U.S. District Judge Anna Brown. "They stole his dignity, they stole his happiness."

Phan, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy in April, got help at her sentencing from a translator who speaks Vietnamese. Her attorney, David Audet, sought a sentence of probation, but the judge said the "extraordinary" amount of money that was stolen made that impossible.

Phan's co-defendant, Hiep Cong Van, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and money laundering and is scheduled to be sentenced in two weeks. Prosecutors are recommending that he serve nearly five years in prison.

Van met the victim, identified in court papers as R.W., while running a landscaping business in the suburbs south of Denver. The customer moved from Colorado to Oregon after retirement.

Prosecutors said Van and Phan sought loans from R.W., saying the landscaping business was struggling to stay afloat. At one point, Van presented his financial problems as so dire he was contemplating suicide.

Moreover, the pair said Van needed more money because he was going through a divorce and had legal troubles. They promised to pay him back with interest.

Prosecutors said they made some interest payments to keep the scheme going. Mostly, however, the money vanished in a long run of bad gambling luck.

The judge is requiring Phan and Van to pay back $2.9 million, plus interest. All parties agreed it will be virtually impossible for the money to be repaid. Phan had been working at a nail salon in Walla Walla, Washington.

"I will try my very best, for the rest of my life, to repay what I have done," said Phan, who will likely serve her prison sentence near Seattle.

The victim did not attend the hearing. Bradford declined to reveal the man's age or hometown. Court records show he sent most of the money from Newport, on the central Oregon Coast.