For release on January 4, 2013
Georg Behrens, Deputy District Attorney
Major Fraud Unit/Economic Crimes Group
SAN JOSE MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO DEATH BENEFITS EMBEZZLEMENT
A San Jose man pleaded guilty Friday, January 4, 2013 to a series of felony charges that he embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars by pocketing investments that were meant to cover payments to local Vietnamese families when their elderly relatives died.
Davie Ba Ngo, the 53, former manager of the now defunct company Concerned Members Committee (CMC,) faces up to three years and eight months in custody when he is sentenced on March 1. He remains in custody pending sentencing. Ngo’s accomplice, Stephanie Tuyet Le, 32, also of San Jose, pled to a single felony charge of Grand Theft by Embezzlement. Le will be sentenced up to 16 months in the county jail.
“Elderly members of CMC entrusted their hard-earned money to Mr. Ngo in the hope that it would be a financial relief to their families when the time came for funeral costs and related expenses,” Deputy District Attorney Georg Behrens said. “Many families were left with nothing.”
In a practice akin to life insurance, CMC – from 2000 to 2011 - collected membership fees along with monthly and annual dues from its “members” in exchange for the promise to pay a lump sum “funeral benefit” to their beneficiary when they died. The amount of the payment depended on the length of time for which the member had been paying dues. Promised pay outs ranged from $6,000 to $14,000. Most CMC members designated a family member, either a spouse or a child, as their beneficiary. Many intended that the one-time payout be used to cover funeral expenses.
As the manager of CMC, Ngo was the custodian of the monies paid into the company by its members, and he was responsible for making the appropriate payouts to the members’ beneficiaries. However, Ngo embezzled more than $200,000 from the company. As he drove the company toward insolvency, he continued to collect dues from members and even to recruit new members by making promises of eventual payouts that he knew he could not keep. CMC is now out of business and many members have lost the money they contributed without ever receiving a payout or a refund.