FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
For Information Contact:
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.