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Vietnamese immigrant who once translated for US troops is scammed into signing over his home

By KALEY JOHNSON | Fort Worth Star-Telegram | Published: November 22, 2019

FORT WORTH, Texas (Tribune News Service) — Vivian Nguyen and her father, Hoang Nguyen, sat at a table in Basswood Public Library on Thursday evening.

Hoang Nguyen’s face was swollen and a set of stitches marred his chin. In the chair next to him, Vivian Nguyen pulled paperwork from a black cloth bag. In the middle of the table, she set down the primary document — the deed for what used to be her father’s home.

The document is her main evidence that her father was the victim of a scam in which he was kicked out of his home of 20 years.

Hoang Nguyen, 72, moved to Fort Worth from Vietnam in the 1990s. He said he unwittingly signed the document, which gave ownership of his house to a couple who cleaned his home several times.

“I lost everything,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen’s family said the couple took advantage of the fact that Nguyen cannot read English and has some mental impairments after falling off a ladder about 10 years ago.

Nguyen, who served as a translator for the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War, said his troubles started when code compliance issued citations for trash that built up in his yard.

Others used his yard to dump their own trash, piling black garbage bags on the lawn in the 7400 block of Creekfall Drive in north Fort Worth, he said.

The citations piled up. Nguyen discarded the letters code compliance sent, not understanding what they said.

By May, he had racked up $14,000 in fines. Nguyen went to court to explain that on his $650 a month Social Security check, he would not be able to pay the thousands of dollars he owed. When he left the court room, two people approached him and said they wanted to help him.

“Stupidly, I believe what they say,” he said.

The couple came to his house and helped him clean several days in a row, Nguyen and his daughter, Vivian Nguyen, said. Vivian Nguyen said the couple had her dad sign a document that he could not read. They told him it was to prove they were there to clean the house in case his daughters came by and wanted to know why they were there.

The document, which the Star-Telegram obtained a copy of, was actually a deed to Nguyen and his wife’s house. More specifically, it is a quitclaim deed, which are rarely used in Texas.

According to the deed, Nguyen signed over his home to Armentha and Ebrima Faye for $5,100 on May 31. According to Tarrant County records, his house is valued at $181,000.

Nguyen said they never gave him that money. He would never had sold his home, anyway, he said.

The Star-Telegram was not able to reach Armentha or Ebrima Faye for comment. On Wednesday, Armentha Faye declined an interview with NBC 5 and denied she forced anyone to sign anything. On Thursday, no one answered the door at the house.

After the couple cleaned his house for several days, another woman came with the couple and asked if he wanted breakfast, Nguyen said. The woman dropped him off at a food bank and said she would come back to get him.

Instead, the woman never returned. After waiting for several hours, Nguyen said he started walking home from the food bank on Lancaster Avenue. While Nguyen was walking on Beach Street, his daughter happened to drive past, picked him up and took him home.

When he got there, the door was open and his fridge and other furniture was gone, he and his daughter said.

About a month and a half later, a constable went to the home and told Nguyen he was being evicted because the house no longer belonged to him, he said. A group of men walked in and out of the house with belongings.

Nguyen said some of them took personal items and put them in their pockets, including a jade necklace that belongs to his wife. His wife currently lives in a nursing home — he still has not told her what happened.

Vivian Nguyen and her father filed a police report on Nov. 4, but said police told them it was a civil matter. The police report details Nguyen’s allegations about the false document and categorizes the incident as a burglary.

Despite the eviction, Nguyen refused to leave his home and continued to live in the house until Saturday, Nov. 16.

That afternoon, several men came to the home and demanded he leave. When he refused, they broke in through the back window and beat him, he said.

Photos taken of Nguyen on Saturday show his face swollen and stitched in two places. Documents from John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth list the medication he should take for his injuries.

Nguyen, whose phone had been stolen, walked to a store and asked to call 911. He and his daughter made another police report, which does not mention an assault and lists the incident as a burglary.

Fort Worth police said they have been trying to gather information from the family, but said the family has not been cooperative or responded to messages or phone calls.

Vivian Nguyen said communicating with police has been difficult since her father does not have a phone and she also has to take care of her two children.

On Wednesday, Nguyen’s months-long fight for his house ended when police came to enforce his eviction, he said. Two police officers stood on the lawn while he and his daughter emptied the home of all their belongings.

That night, he slept in a friend’s van.

“I’m afraid to pick up my mail,” Nguyen said. “I had better living in Vietnam. I thought when I came to the U.S., I would have better living conditions.”

©2019 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
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