Ha Thi Anh Nguyet's criminal history has emerged as a kind of bizarro version of the narratives piling up about American comedian Bill Cosby—one in which a young woman uses sedatives to victimize older men.
Over 18,000 prisoners received pardons this week, but Ha Thi Anh Nguyet wasn't one of them.
Da Lat police arrested the 34-year old former tour guide last month for heavily drugging a 71-year old American and cleaning out his home.
“She was pregnant,” her victim, Charles Wayne Baston, said by phone. “By Vietnamese law they're going to give her a period of time to have a baby and, after that, she'll start her jail sentence, which I understand is going to be five years plus.”
Another expatriate, who asked not to be named, told Thanh Nien he intends to travel to Da Lat to present prosecutors with police reports he filed in Pham Ngu Lao about his own drugging experience which occurred in a restaurant in April of this year.
A photo of Ha Thi Anh Nguyet, a.k.a. Saphia, provided by police of Da Lat
“You go and meet her and she puts something in your drink and then takes everything you've got,” he said via telephone, adding that he was 100 percent positive that the “slightly chubby” woman who took his cell phone, cash and sunglasses was Nguyet.
The tour guide your mother warned you about
Following her most recent arrest, Nguyet told police she'd grown up near the Chinese border in Quang Ninh Province and migrated to Ho Chi Minh City to study English.
After dropping out of school, she reportedly began working as a tour guide for an undisclosed company.
According to accounts published in Cong An Nhan Dan, a Vietnamese-language newspaper that functions like a national crime blotter, Nguyet targeted a Singaporean identified as Chua Kim Chuan.
In late 2013, Nguyet allegedly stole Chuan's cell phone and credit cards after inviting him to her apartment in District 2 and “plying him with liquor.”
Nguyet managed to rack up roughly $6,000 worth of purchases before he noticed and took action in November of that year.
Nguyet's spree ended when she attempted to purchase a $5,000 diamond ring at a mall in District 11 using one of Chuan's cancelled cards.
Security guards stepped in and handed her to the police.
Nguyet reportedly received an 18-month sentence for fraud.
While in prison, she allegedly met the future father of her child—a man from the central province of Phu Yen who was allegedly doing time for having killed a man in a traffic accident.
Nguyet's latest victim, Charles Baston, spent most of his life working as an enforcement officer for the US Department of Agriculture.
His LinkedIn profile describes his education as “Hard Knocks.”
Seven years ago, he settled in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he met and married a woman on a site owned and operated by the same Australian company as Vietnam Cupid.
Cupid Media did not respond to a request for comment, but maintains an extensive advice page on its site that cautions against everything from petty scams to the many possible outcomes of divorce.
Baston claims concerns about Chiang Mai's deteriorating air quality inspired him to move to Da Lat.
“I like it very much,” he told Thanh Nien via telephone. “You can't beat the weather.”
On July 26, he set a date with a woman who used the screen name Saphia.
They met, he says, for one drink at a bar and left for his home at around 9PM.
Baston says Nguyet wore heavy clothing that disguised the fact that she was eight months pregnant.
“I knew she was overweight,” he said. “I never had any physical contact with her.”
Once in his rented house she quickly gave Baston a cocktail of six sleeping pills and some wine.
“I was pretty much out of it for two or three days,” he says.
Catching Nguyet again
Baston credits his Vietnamese American neighbor for helping him navigate a series of police stations where he told officers over and over again how Nguyet had stolen his watch, credit cards, Macbook Pro, iPand, iPhone and roughly $200 in various currencies.
Before he thought to cancel the cards, Nguyet had ran up nearly $4,000 in charges—a crime Baston says allowed the cops to track her whereabouts.
“If I'd gone to the police in the US they would have said 'this guy's stupid;' they wouldn't have wasted any resources on it,” he said.
To his surprise, a senior investigator went to work creating a fake Vietnam Cupid profile posing as a divorced French Vietnamese man.
Saphia declined to meet him.
In the end, they asked the police in Nha Trang to summon Nguyet to resolve a problem with her residency.
When she arrived at a station, the cops detained her and called Da Lat.
“The chief of police went to Nha Trang to pick her up personally at 10PM and brought her back at 2AM,” said Baston, who credited the local authorities for having recovered his computer, his iPad and his watch.
Following Nguyet's arrest, the investigators took the unusual step of bringing her face-to-face with Baston.
She had pawned most of the things she purchased with his credit cards and used the money to pay her rent and gift to her mother-in-law.
“She said 'I grew up very poor and I don't have any money and I'm pregnant,” Baston recalled. “I told her: 'a lot of people grow up poor; a lot of people get pregnant; not everyone drugs and robs people.”
In the weeks since the incident, Baston says he's fully recovered and has re-united with his Thai wife.
“I brought a lot of this on myself,” he said. “And the police were really good.”
Nguyet, as far as he knows, remains under house arrest in Nha Trang awaiting the day when she'll give birth and face prosecution.