Elderly say CMAA scammed them out of funeral money

February 16, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The elderly say they have been scammed. Hundreds of people in San Jose accuse a non-profit of losing their money which they spent years saving to help pay for their own funeral arrangements.

Every day, attorney Tam Nguyen gets hundreds of complaints from of Chinese and Vietnamese families that all want his help.

They are accusing Chinese-American Mutual Assistance Association, or CMAA, of losing their money -- thousands they set aside for their own funerals. The non-profit holds money for member's burial expenses.

"For the past three or four months, 80-100 members have died and each member should have received $15,000 as funeral benefits, but they have not," said Tam.

Phuoc Nguyen's father was one of them. He died October 24, 2009 and for 15 years, the late Nguyen gave CMAA $60 a month for funeral costs. However, when it came time to pay, Phuoc says CMAA did not.

"The problem is I don't have money. I tried to borrow money to bury my father, but I didn't even have enough money to buy my father a coffin," said Phuoc.

At CMAA's headquarters on Flanigan Drive, no cars are in the parking lot and the front gate is locked.

"I see it always empty," said Tony Gabucan, a nearby office worker.

The association's president sent a letter to Phuoc's attorney saying "Since CMAA is in communication with the Attorney General's office and the District Attorney's office, I have been advised not to comment."

"There's a big question, a big mystery as to why they lose money," said Tam.

Suu Trong withdrew his membership CMAA years ago, but he still has dozens of friends who stayed with the association.

"They lost their contribution," said Trong. "They say they are very sad."

Tam is filing his first of 24 civil suits against CMAA on Wednesday. His clients are suing for breach of contract and want $15,000 each.

ABC7 called CMAA on Tuesday, but was told their president was on vacation.


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