A Vietnamese American citizen from Orange County serving a 12-year prison sentence in Vietnam was denied an appeal for a shorter term.

During a four-hour trial, Michael Phuong Minh Nguyen, of Orange, pleaded guilty on June 24 to charges that he attempted to overthrow the government. Later, he asked the court to reduce his sentence so he could come back to his wife and four daughters in the United States. Late Tuesday, Nguyen’s family learned that his sentence was upheld.

“We’re extremely disappointed,” Mark Roberts, Nguyen’s brother-in-law, said Wednesday. “The family is upset.”

Nguyen was arrested on July 7, 2018 when authorities accused him of violating Article 109 of the criminal code, for activities to overthrow the government. He was arrested with friends, as they were traveling through Da Nang, in central Vietnam. Two of the people arrested with him face sentences of eight to 10 years for the same offense.

Nguyen is expected be deported after he is released; the other men must complete three years of house arrest after their jail terms end.

Nguyen’s family denies that he was involved in any activities against Vietnam and say he was in the country to visit family and friends. Nguyen has traveled to Vietnam before, as has his wife, Helen Hieu Nguyen, a surgical nurse at UCI Medical Center and Kaiser hospitals who went to Vietnam on medical missions.

“We believe all the charges against him are bogus,” Roberts said.  “We don’t believe he was there to overthrow the government. That’s nonsense.”