SAN JOSE (BCN) — A man who allegedly initiated online relationships with women and scammed them out of more than $175,000 was arraigned Tuesday in San Jose.Joel Huynh, 41, has been charged with 15 felonies related to theft and passing bad checks, prosecutors said.
Huynh appeared at the Hall of Justice in San Jose Tuesday afternoon in custody and with the assistance of an interpreter.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Hastings, who denied a motion for the defendant to be released on his own recognizance and set his bail at $150,000.
Huynh was scheduled to return to court on July 21 for a plea hearing.
Investigators have so far identified seven victims, six from San Jose and one from Milpitas, who were all Vietnamese-American women, Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Georg Behrens said after Tuesday’s arraignment.
Huynh met the women through social media networks such as Facebook and dating websites, some of which were specific to the Vietnamese community, Behrens said.
“He has a way of doing things and it looks like he’s perfected it quite well,” Behrens said.
Huynh allegedly contacted the victims online, met them in person and portrayed himself as a well-off, affable and generous man, according to Behrens.
Early on in the relationships, the defendant would write personal checks to the women to help them pay off school expenses or assist their family, Behrens said.
The victims would deposit the checks into their bank account and soon after Huynh allegedly asked the women for cash due to a sudden medical or financial emergency, according to Behrens.
The women withdrew the money, at times thousands or even tens or thousands of dollars, to help out Huynh, who would quickly leave with the cash, Behrens said.
After taking off, Huynh allegedly made himself unavailable by deactivating his phone number and removing his online accounts, according to Behrens.
“He would take off when he felt the game was up,” Behrens said.
The 41-year-old man, who was also known as Phuoc Nguyen, allegedly carried out the scam in Santa Clara County from March 2014 to last August, prosecutors said.
Behrens called on the public to be conscious of how personal checks takes days to be cleared and may potentially come from an account with no money, Behrens said.
Receiving a personal check and sending cash in return isn’t exactly a fair trade, according to Behrens.
Con artists use all sorts of “manipulative” strategies to persuade their victims, who they can guilt into handing over their “hard-earned” money, according to Behrens.
“It’s really sad to see that happen to people,” Behrens said.
Huynh is also facing possibly similar charges in Alameda County, Behrens said.
Anyone with information on Huynh is asked to call Santa Clara County District Attorney investigator Richard Fong at (408) 792-2983.