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Sestak spends visa bribes on properties in Thailand

Thursday, May 30, 2013, 17:00 GMT+7
Sestak spends visa bribes on properties in Thailand
Hillside villas in a coastal area in Phuket, Thailand (for illustration only)

After receiving bribes from visa seekers, Michael T. Sestak, former head of non-immigrant visa department of the Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, used the money to buy properties in Phuket and Bangkok, Thailand, US investigators said.

>> Ex-US visa officer receives money via conspirators>> Sestak approves visas for associates of co-conspirators >> Visa seller Sestak once regarded as ‘devoted and professional’ >> Clues from IP addresses in Sestak’s visa scam>> Investigative leads in Sestak’s visa-for-money scam >> Visa bribery case: how did ex-US officer make money? As shown in the result of investigation by the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) of the US Department of State, Sestak earned nearly US$4 million in bribes from Vietnamese people who needed visa approvals from him in the period from March to September 2012. These bribes had been transferred to Sestak’s co-conspirators’ bank accounts before they were sent to Sestak’s own accounts. DSS review of financial data from the Sestak Thailand Bank Account revealed that the entirety of the funds transferred into the account between June 20, 2012, and September 11, 2012, were withdrawn by January 11, 2013. In June and July 2012, Sestak entered agreements with a Thai real estate company to purchase four properties in Phuket, Thailand -- as well as furnishing for the properties -- for approximately $1,231,440. In December 2012, Sestak entered agreements with a Thai real estate company to purchase five additional properties in Bangkok, Thailand, for an approximate total of $2,103,360. In an email dated December 8, 2012, to a Thai real estate company representative, Sestak discussed the urgency of moving his funds out of his Thai bank account and into the Thai properties: “I don’t have much time, as (technically) I need to have all of my money . . . transferred out of my account and into the investment property . . . before January 1” in order to not be stuck with a tax liability . . . . that does not leave much time and I have to move fast.”"I feel trapped in Vietnam!"

In an email dated October 25, 2012, Sestak stated that Co-conspirator 1 was his “business partner.” He referred to his “business partner” in several other emails with a representative of a Thai real estate company, and stated that his partner understood Sestak’s “desire to sell my assets in Vietnam and invest in Thailand.” DSS review of data obtained through court-authorized search warrants executed on email accounts controlled by Sestak revealed that he corresponded with representatives of Thai real estate companies regarding the origin of the funds that he used to purchase the properties, and about methods to transfer the money from Vietnam to Thailand. In a June 2, 2012, email from Sestak to a representative of a Thai real estate company, Sestak wrote, “We are still having trouble finding a way to transfer my money out of Vietnam. We found a service that will allow me to collect the money in Thailand, but that leaves me holding a lot of currency and I don’t think that I can pay you guys in cash. . . . and I don’t think that the banks in Thailand will let me deposit it either. There is another option, but we would have to pay a 25% corporate earnings tax to transfer, which is too high. Do you have any suggestions? It is frustrating to not be able to transfer my money . . . I feel trapped in Vietnam!” In an email to the same Thai real estate representative, dated June 11, 2012, Sestakwrote, “I think that we found a way to transfer the funds and they should arrive this week.” Nine days later, on June 20, 2012, transfers from the Bank of China began to arrive in the Sestak Thailand Bank Account. On June 18, 2012, Sestak wrote in another email to the same representative, “The money is in transit to my Thai account. We had to route via Hong Kong and I sent a small test amount first. Once I have confirmation that it reached my account, which should happen tomorrow, I will send the rest. . . . Thanks, Mike.” Two days later, on June 20, 2012, transfers from the Bank of China began to arrive in the Sestak Thailand Bank Account. On June 26, 2012, the same Thai real estate company representative sent Sestak an email asking Sestak to contact the Thai bank which was seeking confirmation of the transfers. Sestak replied by email, “I am transferring funds in but it has been going slow and I don’t understand the delay. I will give them a call tomorrow. Thanks, Mike.” DSS review of financial data revealed that between June 20 and June 26, 2012, Sestak received five transfers totaling approximately $249,875 to his Thai bank account from the Bank of China.Money also sent to Sestak’s sister in the U.S. A review of Sestak’s Department of State personnel file revealed that he had identified Person 8 as his sister on official personnel documents. On August 16, 2012, an email was sent from the Co-conspirator 2 Google Account to an email address for Person 9. The email contained the name of Person 8, a Yulee, Florida address, as well as the routing number for Wells Fargo and an account number ending with the digits 9153. Subsequent investigation revealed that the account number corresponded to a Wells Fargo account opened by Person 8, and that Person 8 is Sestak’s sister. A day later, an email was sent to the Co-conspirator 2 Google Account, containing electronic images of three applications for overseas funds transfers from Bank of China accounts. Each of the applications was dated August 17, 2012, and each requested an overseas funds transfer in the amount of $50,000 to be sent to an account ending in the numbers 0065 at the Amegy Bank of Texas for the benefit of Person 9. On August 23, 2012, an email was sent from Person 9’s Google Account to the Co-conspirator 2 Google Account; the attachment to the email was a photograph of a deposit receipt in the amount of $150,000 from Wells Fargo. The receipt indicated the funds were deposited into an account ending with the numbers 9153. A subsequent review of Wells Fargo records revealed that on August 23, 2012, a $150,000 check written on the Amegy Bank of Texas account of Person 9 was deposited into Wells Fargo account number ending in 9153 held in the name of Person 8, Sestak’s sister.(To be continued – Last issue: Sestak makes false declaration)

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