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Connecticut postmaster pleads guilty to fraud in $875,000 bribery scheme with maintenance vendor

Damian Dovarganes/Damian Dovarganes

A former Connecticut postmaster has admitted to defrauding the U.S. Postal Service of nearly $875,000 in a scheme involving cash bribes, misuse of USPS credit cards and demands for free personal vehicle repairs.

Longtime postmaster Ephrem D. Nguyen of the office in Danbury, a western Connecticut city of more than 86,700, pleaded guilty Friday to honest services wire fraud, a crime punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison. His guilty plea in the case, which remains under investigation, was announced Monday.

His federal public defender declined to comment on the case.

As the postmaster since 2003, Nguyen was in charge of supervising the maintenance and repair of all equipment, facilities and vehicles. Federal prosecutors said he required in November 2020 the work to be performed by a particular vendor, even though another vendor already had a contract with the Danbury post office. Nguyen then demanded the new vendor provide free repairs to his personal vehicle and the vehicles of one of his children, a USPS employee and an employee at Nguyen’s personal business.

In 2022, Nguyen solicited and received a $30,000 bribe from the same vendor in exchange for agreeing to ensure the USPS overpaid for the work, using credit cards assigned to the Danbury Post Office, prosecutors said. Later that year, he solicited and received a $60,000 bribe from the same vendor with the same arrangement.

Between approximately January 2022 and February 2023, prosecutors said Nguyen used USPS credit cards to pay the new vendor more than $1 million, which amounted to approximately $760,000 more than necessary to pay for legitimate maintenance and repair work. Prosecutors said Nguyen also embezzled more than $80,000 using his USPS credit cards to rent vehicles for the personal use of himself and others. He also approved more than $8,000 in fraudulent travel expense reimbursement claims for a co-worker.

Nguyen, who previously lived in Brookfield, Conn. and now lives in Quincy, Mass., was released on a $100,000 bond. He's scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 5, 2024.

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