Now facing felony theft charges, Liem Vi Truong is alleged to have abandoned his travel agency office after deceiving customers out of $55,000. Beyond the money, though, prosecutors note Truong, 54, broke the trust placed in him and ruined family reunions that were years in the planning.
Rather than face up to his thefts after they were discovered - by his clients, after arriving at Sea-Tac International Airport to find that their tickets were worthless - Truong tried to hide, Deputy Prosecutor Christine Keating said in charging papers.
"When (Truong) was first accused by various customers of stealing their money, he locked the doors of his travel agency and never returned, leaving his belongings and paperwork behind in order to escape responsibility," Keating told the court.
In court papers, a Seattle detective said many of Truong's victims were unwilling to come forward out of shame that they'd been defrauded by a conman.
Operating Universal Services out of an office at 7101 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., Truong did most of his business among the region's Vietnamese community. Truong helped his clients secure visas for relatives visiting from Vietnam while making travel arrangements for Vietnamese people living in the United States.
In 2012, 40 people who bought tickets to Vietnam through Truong arrived at the Sea-Tac airline counters to find out the e-tickets they'd been given were fakes, the detective said in charging papers. Truong's clients had paid him in cash, relying on claims that they would receive a discounted fare for such payment.
Following up on reports from several of Truong's clients, the detective went to Truong's business to find it abandoned. Truong was arrested several weeks later.
Speaking with investigators, Truong admitted to the thefts but claimed he didn't know how many people he'd fleeced, according to charging papers.
Truong is alleged to have told police he gambled with the money he'd taken in payment. Truong said he "kept thinking he would win it back," the detective said in court papers, but then couldn't say how much he'd lost.
The detective said he attended community meetings and sent letters to known victims of Truong's fraud in an effort to get all them to come forward. Many refused to participate out of pride, he said, though he was able to identify at least 14 victims willing to help see Truong face up to his actions.
Truong has been charged with one count of first-degree theft and 13 counts of second-degree theft.