PORTLAND, Oregon - An Army captain accused of stealing nearly $700,000 from the U.S. government while serving in Iraq pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges including theft of government property and money laundering.
Capt. Michael Dung Nguyen, 28, is accused of stealing more than $690,000 entrusted to him as the battalion civil affairs officer in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, between April 2007 and Feb. 24. A federal grand jury indictment alleges Nguyen used some of the money to buy two new vehicles, along with computers, electronics and furniture.
Prosecutors said the funds were designated for commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan for urgent humanitarian relief and reconstruction needs.
The indictment said Nguyen mailed bundles of stolen $100 bills home before he returned from Iraq and that he opened bank accounts in his home state of Oregon and elsewhere. The individual deposits were less than $10,000, but he sometimes made numerous deposits on the same or consecutive days, according to the indictment.
U.S. Attorney Karin Immergut said an investigation began after Internal Revenue Service agents spotted a suspicious pattern with the deposits.
She said the charges indicate a "flagrant and reprehensible disregard" for military honor.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak set a May 5 trial for Nguyen, who will be tried as a civilian.
Nguyen was released to return to Fort Lewis near Tacoma, Washington, where he is stationed.
"Fort Lewis has and will continue to cooperate with the investigation in this case as necessary," said Joseph Piek, a Fort Lewis spokesman.
A federal public defender assigned to represent Nguyen at the arraignment had no comment.