The 15 say that the Nguyens and O'Leary claimed to be devout Buddhists was central to the scheme. They say Tuan Nguyen sold himself to groups of "unsophisticated émigrés" as a Buddhist monk whose followers were "spiritually advanced practitioners of the creed."
"A Buddhist monk is presumed to be one who has progressed far along the path towards total liberation from selfish sentiments and cravings," the complaint states, adding that the plaintiffs "relied on the defendants to act in an ethical, spiritual manner that would accord with their common Buddhist teachings."
Though Nguyen said he would use donations to build "Buddhist shrines, temples and community centers," the more than $7 million he collected over two years went to pay other investors who had been promised unrealistic returns, and into the defendants' own pockets, according to the complaint.
The 15 plaintiffs, many of whom invested more than $50,000 in the scheme, want a jury trial and their money back. They are represented by William Markham of Maldonado & Markham.