Buddhist monk gets prison for stealing from temple to gamble

LAFAYETTE, LA (AP) – A Buddhist monk was sentenced Monday to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to embezzling more than $260,000 from the Louisiana temple he led and gambling most of the money at a casino.

U.S. District Judge Donald Walter also ordered Khang Nguyen Le, 36, of Lafayette, to pay nearly $264,000 in restitution, U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley’s office said in a statement.

Le pleaded guilty in March to one count of wire fraud, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Le served as presiding monk of the Vietnamese Buddhist Association of Southwest Louisiana’s Lafayette temple from 2010 through October 2014, when he stepped down amid the investigation. Le’s indictment said he lived and worked at the temple and earned a salary of $1,000 per month.

Finley’s office said Le, a Vietnamese citizen, may face deportation to Vietnam after his release from prison.

A court filing in March said Le withdrew cash from the temple’s accounts to fund his frequent gambling trips to L’Auberge Casino in Lake Charles.

Le was arrested last September at LaGuardia International Airport in New York after he got off a flight from Dallas and before he could board a flight bound for Toronto.

Le told federal agents he had a gambling problem and said he would spend up to $10,000 playing blackjack during his gambling trips, according to an affidavit filed in support of his arrest.

Le “said the church members would frown upon him even going to the casino if they knew; therefore, Le hid his gambling activity,” an agent wrote.

Le told investigators that he always went to the casino alone, and congregation members never asked to see bank account statements.

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