Placentia city official accused of embezzling $4.3 million

PLACENTIA, Calif. (KABC) -- A Placentia city financial officer has been accused of embezzling $4.3 million from the municipal government.

Michael Nguyen, 34, faces up to 29 years in state prison and a fine of $8.6 million if convicted of all the charges related to the alleged scheme.

Officials say Nguyen, who started working for the city in 2008 as the financial services manager, made 17 wire transfers out of the city's investment account over the last year.

They say he was able to bypass some of the city's internal controls as well as manipulate bank statements. Some of the money was allegedly steered directly into a financial account affiliated by Nguyen and two other people, according to senior deputy district attorney Marc Lebreche.

Prosecutors say the most recent transfers, totaling $1.8 million, were made as recently as Monday and Tuesday of this week.

The city, which has an annual budget of $30 million, has managed to recover $1.5 million so far.

City officials said they were disappointed in Nguyen's alleged actions, but wanted to reassure the public that the incident is not reflective of city government as a whole.

"This is not indicative of our employees as a group," said Placentia City Councilmember Chad Wenke. "These are the actions of one rogue individual."

Nguyen is due back in court May 6.
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