Fayette County

‘Filth and depravity.’ Kentucky web model’s harsh life helps her avoid prison in large tax case

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A Lexington internet model who admitted failing to pay nearly $300,000 in federal income tax was placed on probation for three years.

Trini Tran will be on home detention for a year, though she can leave for specified exceptions such as work, education and medical care, according to the sentencing order.

The sentence included a requirement to pay the Internal revenue Service $296,429, but she had already done that.

U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves also instructed Tran to complete her college degree. She has nearly finished a degree in biology, according to a court record.

Reeves’ sentencing order was released Monday.

Tran, 34, pleaded guilty to aiding in the preparation of false tax returns. She faced a potential sentence of 18 to 24 months in prison under advisory federal guidelines, but her attorney argued for a lesser sentence based on several factors.

Those included Tran’s cooperation in the investigation, her contrition and her extraordinary efforts to right the wrong, attorney Brandon W. Marshall said in a memorandum.

Tran admitted the first time an Internal Revenue Service agent talked to her that she made up or guessed at many deductions. She kept receipts in a plastic trash bag that she gave the agent as soon as he asked.

Even before pleading guilty in March, Tran deposited the entire amount of money she owed the IRS, and also paid a civil assessment of more than $200,000, plus interest, Marshall said.

In total, Tran paid $561,841 to settle the initial unpaid tax liability of $296,429, according to the memo from Marshall.

Tran’s attorney also pointed to difficulties in her life.

Tran was born in abject poverty in Vietnam. Her family subsisted largely on rice, sometimes seasoned with wild greens they foraged, and lived in a wooden lean-to with a mud floor, sleeping on a plank.

Her family came to the United States when she was 8 years old through the sponsorship of an aunt who had escaped Vietnam earlier with an American soldier, Marshall said.

If you owe taxes but can’t pay, be sure to file a tax return on time to avoid the failure to file penalty.

She faced further difficulties with a husband who abused her physically and emotionally.

Tran got out of the relationship after he pointed a pistol at her and their young daughter, according to the sentencing memo. But she was short of the education needed to accomplish her goal of being a physician’s assistant and struggled to make ends meet working in a nail salon.

It was at that point that a friend in California suggested Tran could make money as a web-cam model, according to Marshall’s memo.

The sexually-charged work is lucrative, but not glamorous. Marshall described it as Tran “debasing herself on the internet for money,” for 10 hours a day, often every day.

“She is bombarded day after day by all manner of filth and depravity. Men commit repulsive acts and say degrading things about her during these online sessions,” the memo said.

Tran often has to try to seem appealing while holding back tears, and the experiences are so disturbing that she sometimes can’t sleep, Marshall said.

Tran promised herself she would only model until she got out of debt. The security of steady income can be a powerful lure for someone who grew up as poor as Tran, however, so she’s continued for five years, Marshall said.

Tran said she could make more in a month than she could in a year in any other job. She has paid off her parents’ house and told Marshall she can stop modeling as soon as she pays off a home for her and her daughter and builds up a nest egg, according to the sentencing memo.

Marshall told Reeves that Tran welcomed requirements to complete her bachelor’s degree in biology and attend counseling “designed to help her begin to unpack some of the weight of her childhood and her profession,” according to her sentencing memo.

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