No prison for NY woman who included booze in bribe

AP News
Posted: Dec 14, 2011 3:05 PM
No prison for NY woman who included booze in bribe

A nail salon owner who tried to quash a tax audit by offering an agent $18,000 and a bottle of tequila avoided prison time Wednesday but will have to spend a year confined to her home.

Chinh Tran, 42, of West Nyack, was sentenced to two years of supervised release for the attempted bribery.

Prosecutor Kathryn Martin said federal guidelines called for at least two years in prison, but federal Judge Kenneth Karas said Tran's charitable works won her release.

"In many ways she's led a model life," the judge said.

Tran pleaded guilty in August to bribing a public official. She admitted giving an Internal Revenue Service agent $18,000 in two payments last year to close a pending audit of her 2007 tax return. The second payment was accompanied by a bottle of Leyenda del Milagro tequila.

Court papers said Tran owned a nail salon in Nanuet and was being investigated in connection with income reported from a nail salon in Grapevine, Texas. She offered the bribe _ which officials said was not accepted _ in exchange for having the agent close the audit and approve her return.

Defense lawyer Patrick Burke said Tran had contributed to leprosy camps, orphanages and soup kitchens in her native Vietnam and had become a resource for Vietnamese immigrants in the United States.

The judge praised her charitable works. He told Tran through a Vietnamese translator, "The reason you're not going to jail is the other things you've done in your life."

"But what you did was wrong," he added.

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Tran declined to comment after the court session. Burke said of the sentence, "I think it's fair." The U.S. attorney's office would not comment.

J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, said, "Any attempt to bribe an employee of the Internal Revenue Service will be investigated in order to maintain the public's confidence in fair and effective tax administration."

The judge said Tran's first year of supervision must be spent at home; he said probation officials would decide whether an electronic monitor was necessary.

The judge also sentenced Tran to time served, which was just the few hours she was in custody after she was arrested in October 2010.