USDOJ: AmCit Binh Vo, Alleged Co-Conspirator in Michael Sestak Visa Scandal Arrested at Dulles Airport

— By Domani Spero

We have previously blogged about the visa fraud allegations at the Consulate General in Ho Chi Min City involving FSO Michael T. Sestak and four other alleged co-conspirators.  Court records indicate that an arraignment and motion hearing were held on September 13, 2013 with a status conference scheduled for all three defendants (Sestak, Truc Thanh Huynh and  Hong Chau Vo) for October 18, 2013 at 10:30 AM in Courtroom 30A before Judge John D. Bates.

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Meanwhile, on September 24, 2013, US authorities arrested Binh Vo, a U.S. citizen and another of the remaining alleged co-conspirators at the Washington Dulles International Airport.  At this time, only one of the alleged co-conspirators, Anhdao Thuy Nguyen, 30, a Vietnamese citizen, and Bihn Vo’s wife remains at large.  According to USDOJ, a warrant has been issued for her arrest.  Thanh Nien News describes Anhdao Thuy Nguyen as a “bright Vietnamese beauty queen” who “studied for an MBA at the University of Texas in Austin.”  

 

Via USDOJ:

American Citizen Arrested and Charged With Bribery, Visa Fraud and Conspiracy -Scheme Allegedly Yielded Millions of Dollars in Bribes

WASHINGTON Binh Vo, 39, an American citizen living in Vietnam, has been arrested and charged with bribery, visa fraud and conspiracy to commit those offenses as well as to defraud the United States, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Director Gregory B. Starr announced today.

Vo appeared this afternoon before the Honorable Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where a criminal indictment was pending against him. He was arrested on Sept. 24, 2013, at Washington Dulles International Airport. Magistrate Judge Facciola ordered that he remain in custody pending further court proceedings.

According to the indictment, Vo conspired with co-defendant Michael Sestak and others to obtain visas to the United States for Vietnamese citizens.  Sestak, 42, was the Non-Immigrant Visa Chief in the Consular Section of the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam from August 2010 to September 2012.

According to the indictment, Vo and Sestak conspired with other U.S. citizens and Vietnamese citizens who worked to recruit customers – or to recruit other recruiters – to the visa scheme. Co-conspirators reached out to people in Vietnam and the United States and advertised the scheme by creating a website and by spreading the word through emails and telephone calls.

According to the indictment, co-conspirators assisted visa applicants with their applications and prepared them for their consular interviews.  Upon submitting an application, the applicants would receive an appointment at the Consulate, be interviewed by Sestak, and approved for a visa. Applicants or their families paid Vo between $20,000 and $70,000 per visa.

Applicants paid for their visas in Vietnam, or by routing money to co-conspirators in the United States.  According to affidavits filed in this case, Vo received millions of dollars for arranging for Sestak to approve the visas.  He ultimately moved some of the money out of Vietnam by using money launderers through off-shore banks.  Co-conspirators also had money laundered through off-shore banks to bank accounts in the United States.

To date, the investigation has seized over $2 million from conspirators’ accounts in the United States.

Three others have been charged in the scheme.They are Hong Vo, 27, an American citizen, Truc Tranh Huynh, 29, a Vietnamese citizen, and Anhdao Dao Nguyen, 30, a Vietnamese citizen, all of whom are charged with conspiring with Sestak and Binh Vo.  Hong Vo is Binh Vo’s sister.  She allegedly assisted with the recruitment of visa applicants and communicated with others about the payment for the fraudulent visas.

According to charging documents, fraudulent visas granted by Sestak were connected to an Internet Protocol (“IP”) address controlled by Hong Vo. Huynh allegedly participated in the visa scheme by obtaining documents necessary for the visa applications, collecting money and providing model questions and answers for visa applicants.  Sestak also allegedly approved a visa for Huynh to the United States, the application for which was submitted by the IP address controlled by Hong Vo.  Anhdao Thuy Nguyen is Binh Vo’s wife.  She allegedly assisted with recruiting applicants and laundering funds during the course of the conspiracy.

Sestak and Hong Vo were arrested in May 2013 and Huynh was arrested the following month. All remain held without bond pending further proceedings.  Nguyen remains at large, and a warrant has been issued for her arrest.

An indictment is merely an allegation that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.

The case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brenda J. Johnson, Christopher Kavanaugh, and Mona N. Sahaf of the National Security Section and Catherine K. Connelly of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

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US Embassy Caracas: Former FSN Sentenced to Nine-Month Prison Term in Visa Application Scheme

We have previously posted about the arrest of an FSN from US Embassy Caracas on conspiracy/bribery charges in a visa application scheme (see US Embassy Caracas FSN Arrested on Conspiracy/Bribery Charges in Visa Applications Scheme.

In November, USDOJ announced that the former employee, Christian Adolfo Paredes Uzcategui, 44, of Caracas, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  The charge carried a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. (see US Embassy Caracas: Former FSN Pleads Guilty for Receiving Illegal Gratuity).

Last month, the former embassy employee was sentenced to nine months in prison; the official announcement did not mention any fine.

Via DOJ:

A former visa assistant for the United States Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, was sentenced today to nine months in prison for accepting payments to aid people in facilitating visa applications, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and Scott Bultrowicz, Director of the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, announced.

Christian Adolfo Paredes Uzcategui, 44, of Caracas, pled guilty in November 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a charge of receiving an illegal gratuity by a public official. The Honorable James E. Boasberg sentenced him today.

Paredes was arrested in May 2012 following an investigation by the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service.

According to a statement of facts, signed by the defendant as well as the government, Paredes worked for the State Department at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas as a visa assistant for non-immigrant visa applications. His duties included screening incoming documentation and information from a variety of sources to organize and track non-immigrant visa requests and ensuring that the legal requirements of non-immigrant visa applications were met.

As a visa assistant, he had access to Embassy databases, but only for official business and on a need-to-know basis. He was not to share this information without official permission.

In the middle of 2011, Paredes began receiving money from a private individual who acted as a “facilitator” for Venezuelan applicants seeking non-immigrant U.S. visas. In exchange, Paredes provided information about the facilitator’s clients. Between March 2011 and February 2012, the facilitator wire-transferred more than $5,000 to bank accounts controlled by Paredes in exchange for information about clients.

In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen and Director Bultrowicz commended the efforts of those who investigated the case for the Diplomatic Security Service. They also praised those who worked on the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia, including Special Assistant U.S. Attorney David J. Mudd.

Original announcement posted here.

domani spero sig