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Vietnamese-American arrested over Sestak’s visa scam

Sunday, June 02, 2013, 12:00 GMT+7
Vietnamese-American arrested over Sestak’s visa scam
For illustration only

US police have arrested an accomplice in the visa-for-money scam headed by Michael Sestak, a former head of non-immigrant visa section of the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City.

>> Sestak spends visa bribes on properties in Thailand

>> 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?

According to the Albany Times Union - a major newspaper in the state of New York, Hong Vo, the 27-year-old suspect, was arrested in Denver on May 8.

Hong Vo, a Vietnamese-American, is the younger sister of an accomplice in the ring who is the director of a multinational company headquartered in HCMC, Vietnam.

Another accomplice is Hong Vo’s boyfriend.

Though Hong Vo's attorney asked for bail, US authorities rejected the proposal because Hong Vo may flee to another country.

According to the indictment of the court, in an e-mail sent in July 2012, Hong Vo and an acquaintance had discussed the ways to lure ‘potential customers’ who are willing to spend about $50,000 to get the visas to the US.

"Though it is just non-immigrant visas, once you arrived at the US, you may hide yourself from the authorities by getting married [with local woman] or return to Vietnam, and it is easy to apply for a new visa to the US," Hong Vo wrote in an e-mail.

U.S. State Department suspected that Sestak knew Hong Vo’s family last year. In another e-mail, Hong Vo described Sestak as "an very valuable acquaintance".

US investigators last week revealed that Michael T. Sestak, who earned nearly US$4 million in bribes from Vietnamese people who needed visa approvals from him in the period from March to September 2012, used the money to buy properties in Phuket and Bangkok, Thailand.

In June and July 2012, Sestak spent around $1.23 million on four properties, as well as furnishing for the properties, in Phuket, Thailand. In December 2012, Sestak purchased five additional properties in Bangkok, Thailand, for an approximate total of $2.1 million, said Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) of the US Department of State.

The bribes were transferred to Sestak’s co-conspirators’ bank accounts before they were sent to Sestak’s own accounts.

DSS said financial data from the Sestak Thailand Bank Account showed that the entirety of the funds transferred into the account between June 20, 2012, and September 11, 2012, were withdrawn by January 11, 2013.

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