A Vietnam court on Thursday sentenced six people to up to three years in jail for forging documents and seals for use in applying for visas at the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City last year, local media said. Of these convicts, Nguyen Hoang Thinh, 62, of Ho Chi Minh City, received the highest sentence of three years; and Vo Xuan Dan, 41, of the same city, got two years and six days. Of the other four, Tran Van Dung, 33, was sentenced to one year, four months and four days; Tran Danh Thang, 38, got the same sentence as Dung; while Vu Thi Trinh, 33, and Nguyen Lap, 34, both of Ho Chi Minh City, were condemned to 10 months and 17 days each. All six were tried by the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court on charges of “forging seals and documents of agencies and organizations,” pursuant to Article 267 of the Penal Code. Thinh and Dan were arrested on May 8, 2014 for providing fake documents for use in applying for visas to the U.S. at a price of up to US$700 per visa granted since late 2013. Thinh, who had three previous convictions on the same charge, was then the director of Van Truong Company in Tan Binh District. On searching his company, police seized materials and equipment used for forging papers. Police officers launched an investigation into the case in late 2013, when they received reports that a ring was counterfeiting documents for use in applying for U.S. visas. Detectives later kept a close watch on the activities of a dozen people, including Dan, who worked as visa brokers outside the U.S. Consulate General on Le Duan Street in District 1. On March 18, 2014, when Dan and four others – Dung, Thang, Trinh and Lap – were talking in front of the consulate general, police officers intercepted and escorted them to their office for questioning, according to Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper. Police then seized five counterfeit passports, two fake business registration certificates, and many false seals from Dan. The four people admitted to police that they had just gone through interviews at the U.S. Consulate General by using fake files provided by Dan and Thinh. Lap and Trinh were granted a visa, while the two others were denied by the consulate general. Dan told police that the four above people wanted to go to the U.S. for work while using travel visas as tourists.
Lap, Thang and Trinh are all from the north-central province of Nghe An, while Dung hails from neighboring Ha Tinh Province. Dan charged each of the four $700 for the false documents they needed to be eligible for a visa, he said. They gave Dan their passports, certified résumés, and five photographs, and he then hired Thinh to forge business registration certificates, invitations to various events in the U.S., including exhibitions, and other necessary documents. Dan said he paid Thinh VND4 million ($184) as a lump sum payment for faking all the documents required for each U.S. visa file. In the event that someone who used his counterfeits failed in their visa interviews, he charged $200 in service fees, Dan said.