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California priest who embezzled donations gets prison time, $1.9 million fine

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A priest in California has been sentenced to three years in prison for bank fraud and ordered to pay restitution after he put over $1.4 million in church donations into his bank accounts.

Father Hien Minh Nguyen, 57, was ordered to pay $1,880,000 to the Diocese of San Jose and the IRS, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says. In March Nguyen was found guilty in federal court on 14 counts of bank fraud. Prosecutors said he deposited 14 checks from parishioners into his personal account while he was pastor.

The donations, made between 2005 and 2007, had been intended for the Vietnamese Catholic Center in San Jose, CBS San Francisco reported in March. Nguyen had served as the center’s director from 2001-2011. He has also served as a pastor of St. Patrick’s Church, now called Our Lady of La Vang.

The priest previously pleaded guilty to tax evasion for the years 2008-2011. Nguyen has been a priest of the Diocese of San Jose since 1995. The priest has been on a personal leave of absence since December 2013. He was born in Vietnam and fled to the U.S. as a boy during the Vietnam War.

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