Tuoi Tre Newspaper has investigated and shed light on Michael Sestak’s chief aid, a mysterious person who the U.S. investigative agency has yet to reveal, but instead refers to as “Co-conspirator 1”.
>> Vietnamese-American arrested over Sestak’s visa scam >> Disgraced ex-US diplomat made false statements >> 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?
The person is in fact a 39-year-old Vietnamese-American businessman with a temporary residence in Ho Chi Minh City. Of the five co-conspirators of former US Foreign Service officer Michael T. Sestak in a visa fraud scam in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City last year, Co-conspirator 1 played a main role, US investigators said. As revealed in the investigation by the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) of the US Department of State, Sestak, former head of the non-immigrant visa department of the Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, received US$50,000-70,000 per visa in bribes from Vietnamese people who needed visa approvals from him in the period from March to September 2012. In the visa fraudulence scheme, Sestak had five co-conspirators, including co-conspirator 1, a U.S. national; co-conspirator 2, a Vietnamese national; co-conspirator 3, a U.S. national; co-conspirator 4, a U.S. national; and co-conspirator 5, a Vietnamese national. A DSS review of Consulate records revealed that many of the visa applications adjudicated by Sestak were accessed from one of three IP addresses. Further investigation showed that the three IP addresses from which the applications were accessed were connected to co-conspirator 1, co-conspirator 3, and co-conspirator 2 and family members. Sestak and co-conspirator 1 are acquaintances who were known to socialize together in HCMC, and have been observed together at many functions within the Consulate community.Is Co-conspirator 1 Vo Tang Binh?Tuoi Tre found out that one of the IP addresses belongs to the office of Santa Freight Forwarding Joint Stock Company, located on the 8th Floor of the Thien Son Building, on Nguyen Gia Thieu Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City. The company was founded by three entrepreneurs, including Vo Tang Binh, a Vietnamese-American man who holds the post of general director, and two Chinese nationals. Binh lives in Tan Binh District, and has an address in Denver, Colorado. According to DSS, Co-conspirator 1 also has a US residence in Denver. This adds weight to Tuoi Tre’s speculation that Binh is Co-conspirator 1. The DSS review of Consulate records revealed that approximately 425 NIV applications (for 419 unique applicants) had been accessed from IP Address A or IP Address B, between March 8, 2012, and September 6, 2012. Sestak conducted the initial interview for 404 of the 419 applicants and approved visas for 386 applicants. After the date he later used his influence to help 22 more applicants obtain visas. 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.” On searching Binh’s emails, investigators discovered a list of 11 email addresses with different passwords for use in receiving information from visa seekers. A total 251 visa applications were sent to Sestak’s office via these addresses, of which 242 applicants were approved by Sestak. Six others were later granted visa by other consular officers without interviews. Sestak also later approved visas for two people he had temporarily rejected due to insufficient papers or incomplete payment of visa fees.Who is Co-conspirator 2? According to DSS, Co-conspirator 2 is Co-conspirator 1’s spouse, which means Binh’s wife, Nguyen Thuy Anh Dao, 30, is likely to be Co-conspirator 2. Dao is registered at Le Van Sy Street, Ward 14, Phu Nhuan District. Binh and Dao held their wedding ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City late in 2012, but the marriage, as well as Binh’s address, has been declared in some of his personal papers. Tuoi Tre visited a house on Truong Dinh Street, District 3, which Binh has registered as his residence in many of his personal records, but a young man who was staying in the house said there was no one there with such name. According to Tuoi Tre’s investigation, Dao is a Vietnamese citizen who often leaves and then returns to Vietnam via HCMC’s Tan Son Nhat Airport. In 2012 and the first months of 2013, Dao entered and exited the country about 20 times, and the dates of these trips were identical to those carried out by her husband Binh. On May 31, while pretending to be applying for a U.S. visa, Tuoi Tre reporters went to Dao’s house and met an elderly woman who said she was Dao’s mother. After the reporters said they wanted to meet Binh and Dao and ask for help in obtaining visas, the woman said, “She will not do it”. “Previously, Dao and her husband used to come here every few days, but they haven’t come back recently. I don’t know where they are or when they will return.”
Tuoi Tre then learned that Dao had returned to Vietnam with her husband on April 7, and there is no information regarding whether or not they have left since. As previously reported, Sestrak’s co-conspirator 3, Hong Vo, a 27-year-old Vietnamese-American woman, was arrested in Denver, Colorado on May 8, one day after arrest warrants for her and Sestak were issued by a US court.Tuoi Tre has concluded that Hong Vo is Sestak’s Co-conspirator 3. Vo is Binh’s younger sister and Vo’s boy friend is highly likely to be Co-conspirator 4. Vo and an acquaintance had discussed ways to lure ‘potential customers’ who are willing to spend about $50,000 to get the visas to the US, according to the court. These conspirators, along with conspirator 5,who is Binh’s cousin, colluded with Sestak in his visa fraud scam in which he earned nearly US$4 milliion, some of which he used to buy at least 13 properties in Phuket and Bangkok, Thailand. Sestak, 42, was arrested in southern California more than two weeks ago, and hase been charged with violating Title I8 USC § 371 by conspiring to defraud the United States and to commit offenses against the United States, that is, visa fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1546 and bribery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 201(b)(1) and (b)(2), according to DSS.