Suspected California gang member targets Asian families in Houston-area in identity theft scheme, officials say

SPRING, Texas – A suspected California gang member bought two luxury vehicles and nearly $40,000 worth of items to furnish a home using at least three different stolen identities from Houston-area families, according to Harris County Financial Crimes investigators.

All three victims have the same exact first and last name.

What happened?

Hai T. Nguyen makes it a habit to check his credit score every day on his smartphone. When he checked it one morning back in September and saw it had dropped nearly 300 points, he feared the worst.

“After I looked inside, very surprised. Very surprised,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen discovered someone had stolen his identity and bought $700 worth of merchandise, including ceiling fans from a local home improvement store. He later found out that on another account opened in his name, more than $21,000 worth of furniture had been purchased at another business on Bellaire Boulevard, using a fake California ID with Nguyen’s name on it.

“Terrible. Terrible! Terrible! I can’t believe it,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen contacted the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

What are investigators saying?

Financial crimes investigators did some digging and all roads led them to 33-year-old Hieu Sam and his girlfriend, Minh Tran, investigators said.

Both were caught on that home improvement store’s surveillance camera. Investigators said Sam bought a $46,000 2019 Toyota Highlander, nearly $6,000 worth of furniture and a brand new 2020 Lexus using the stolen identities of two other victims, also named Hai T. Nguyen. The other victims are a woman and a man, both of whom are in their 60s. Sam and Tran are charged with fraudulent use of identifying information. An arrest warrant has been issued for them.

Investigators believe the couple may have other victims and are urging potential victims to come forward.

If you’re a victim, call the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Financial Crimes Unit at 713-274-9200.

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