York County woman pleads guilty to nearly $1M embezzlement, called 'plague on society'

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

Phuong Nguyen-Davis is going to prison for stealing close to a million dollars from two employers.

She admitted one theft of more than $900,000 in York and another theft in Maryland. Now, she faces at least 2½ years behind bars.

But she won’t go to prison yet.

Phuong Nguyen-Davis

After Nguyen-Davis pleaded guilty in a York County court on Tuesday, her sentencing was pushed back three months to July so she could make a start on paying restitution, according to her attorney.

The 56-year-old Nguyen-Davis admitted to a felony count of theft by unlawful taking. Seven other felony charges were dismissed.

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Terms of the agreement call for a sentence of 2½ years to five years in prison and for her to pay restitution of $500,000 to an insurance company. The sentence is set to run mostly concurrently with a sentence from Nguyen-Davis’ plea a month ago to similar embezzlement accusations in Maryland.

A statement from her former York County employer, Jim Vaughn of Advanced Fluid Systems Inc., was read during the hearing. His letter said the company experienced hardship and loss of income, as well as stress on accounting staff who put in hours of labor to help investigate the theft.

“It's his belief that Ms. Phuong Nguyen-Davis is a plague on society,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Mark Monroe said as he read Vaughn’s letter.

Nguyen-Davis declined to comment on the cases.

“I am not talking to you,” she told The York Dispatch outside the courtroom.

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Vaughn declined to comment further after the hearing except to say he’s “pleased with the progress” from the investigation.

The twin allegations date back to Nguyen-Davis’ final days working in accounts payable/human resources at AFS in Hellam Township in late May 2022. She walked away from the business as executives became wise to unauthorized charges to company credit cards.

Vaughn, as company president, reported suspicions to Hellam Township police. The subsequent investigation found Nguyen-Davis had embezzled $915,045 over the five years she worked at AFS, beginning in 2017.

Hellam Township Police Department in Hellam Township, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Police said she funneled about half the total by charging existing corporate cards, as well as several others she opened, to an online business she apparently helped set up. She then used AFS to pay the credit card bills.

Charges were also discovered for flights, car leases, appliances, groceries, medical appointments and electric bills to a home in York Township.

Amid the investigation, Nguyen-Davis took a job as an office manager at Aerolab, an aerospace company in Jessup, Maryland, last June.

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Within weeks, Aerolab’s CEO spotted fraudulent charges to company debit cards. He reported a loss of $11,670 to Howard County Police.

Charges included those for an Airbnb stay, airline tickets, hotels and Amazon purchases, according to Howard County Police. Nguyen-Davis was also accused of making several charges to a PayPal account and then using company money to pay those bills.

She allegedly left the company when the CEO sought to confront her about the charges.

Nguyen-Davis was charged in York County and then in Howard County.

The two cases then ran simultaneously and led up to plea agreements.

Nguyen-Davis pleaded guilty to a theft scheme count in Maryland on March 27.

There, she faces two years of incarceration and three years suspended to probation, which she’ll serve at the same time as the York County sentence.

Once she’s out of prison, Maryland’s sentence also calls for five years of supervised probation and restitution to Aerolab of $11,670.

Phuong Nguyen-Davis from 2014

The sentencing hearing in Howard County was initially set for June 5.

York County Court of Common Pleas Judge Amber Kraft on Tuesday scheduled sentencing in the local case for July 18.

Nguyen-Davis’ attorney, Matthew Sembach, asked to push back the hearing 90 days to July so she can start making payments on her $500,000 restitution.

He estimated she’d pay $200 a month on that, which would be on top of $300 a month he said she’s paying on restitution from older, separate theft cases dating back a decade.

“It’s a small pittance compared to what she owes,” Sembach said, noting that paying something to help make AFS whole is better than nothing.

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On the $500,000 restitution, paying an aggregate of $600 over the next few months would amount to about 0.12% of the total.

Nguyen-Davis is currently free on bail in both cases and working, according to court documents.

In the older cases, she owes approximately $157,000 in outstanding restitution — money that’s the subject of efforts by the York County Clerk’s Office to collect.

She has made about $10,500 in payments on that amount since 2014, court documents show.

— Reach Aimee Ambrose at aambrose@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.