Contra Costa DA files grand theft charges against Antioch couple for four-year Ponzi scheme

The Contra Costa District Attorney has filed eight felony counts of grand theft by fraud and embezzlement against Quyen Tran, age 60, and his wife, Mai Han Tran, age 56, both of Antioch, for conducting a Ponzi scheme that lasted over four years. The total loss to eight victims was $256,000.

Quyen “Tony” Tran and Mai “Lisa” Tran, made friends with the victims in the Vietnamese church and social community. Mai Tran invited the victims over to her house in Antioch for a social event, but once there, Quyen invited the victims up to his office and told them of his 25 years of investment experience, his investment savvy,  and how he could make a lot of money for them through his investments skill.

He told one victim that he had an inside line on a Pharmaceutical company IPO, that was later found to be non-existent. The victims were impressed by Quyen’s lavish lifestyle and expensive jewelry and cars and his perceived financial acumen and appearance of wealth. Victims believed him when he told them he never lost any money. The investments, primarily in cash, ranged from $4,000 to $156,000 and the agreements were all verbal.

In this classic Ponzi scheme, instead of investing their money, Tran used the victim’s money for personal expenses, and to maintain his lavish lifestyle, and to pay dividends to early investors, in order to keep the illusion that he was making money in order to attract new investors. When some of the victims demanded their money back after receiving nothing after several months, he told them it was a loan, or that the money was generating returns and was locked up and if he returned money it would be taxed at 45% tax rate. He told other victims that he had lost their money and his bank accounts were frozen. When the victims demanded proof that he had purchased stock, he never provided any. Tran did engage in some minor day-trading, but lost money in 4 of 6 years. In the two years that he made a small profit, he never returned any money to the investors. But Tran continued to tell new investors that he never lost any money.

A forensic accountant and an investigator found that there were several victims from years beyond the four year statute of limitations who lost money to Tran, but these victims never went to the police, because of the cultural shame and distrust of the police.

In addition to the eight counts of fraud, both Trans are charged with money laundering, conspiracy, sale of unlicensed securities and a white collar enhancement of stealing over $100,000. The District Attorney also filed a Temporary Restraining Order and a Lis Pendens on the Tran’s residence which has some equity that could be used to pay restitution.

An arrest warrant has been issued for the Tran’s arrest. If you have been a victim of the Trans in the past ten years, please contact Inspector Al Cofer at the District Attorney’s office at 925-957-8761.

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