As head of the non-immigrant visa section of the US Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City last year, Michael T. Sestak approved visas for many applicants associated with his co-conspirators, according to US investigators.
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Sestak, who held the position from August 2010 to September 2012, has recently been arrested for allegedly receiving nearly US$4 million in bribes from Vietnamese people seeking visas.
As previously reported, Sestak had five conspirators in the scam, 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.
After reviewing the Consulate’s records, the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) of the US Department of State revealed that Sestak, during his working at the Consulate, approved visas for at least seven applicants who listed Co-conspirator 1, or one of Co-conspirator 1’s parents, as their U.S. point of contact.
He also approved visas for Co-conspirator 1’s spouse, Co-conspirator 2, on April 28, 2011, October 24, 2011, and August 28, 2012, DSS said.
Review of Google records revealed that on October 25, 2011, the day after he approved a visa for Co-conspirator 2, Sestak had the following Google chat with Co-conspirator 1:
CO-CONSPIRATOR 1: thanks for [Co-conspirator 2]‘s visa and sorry about the application; [Co-conspirator 2] wasn’t sure if [Co-conspirator 2] had to fill it out, etc.; hence, [Co-conspirator 2] asked you in [its] email. Great that you handled everything, which is greatly appreciated.
SESTAK: no worries. i will fedex it back to [Co-conspirator 2's] address in austin, right?
SESTAK: ok i will send it tomorrow at lunch after they print the visa.
Co-conspirator 1 then provided Co-conspirator 2’s address in Austin, Texas.
DSS review of Consulate records also revealed that Sestak approved a visa for Co-conspirator 2’s father, on October 13, 2011. It was submitted on October 12, 2011, from IP Address C.
DSS review of information acquired through various court-authorized search warrants executed through the course of the investigation revealed electronic chats and emails written by Co-conspirator 3 which described the relationship that Co-conspirator 1 purposefully cultivated with Sestak in order to get Sestak to approve visas for Co-conspirator 1.
In a chat dated June 1, 2012, Co-conspirator 3 stated “last night we went out with this guy who works at the consulate — he’s the one that approves peoples visas… and he’s this single guy who wants to find someone to be with… and my brother knows that – so he’s been trying to get this guy out and introduce him to people… so then later he can do him favors like have him approve visas for people.”
In another chat dated June 1, 2012, Co-conspirator 3 stated, “This guy who works for the US consulate here came out and joined us for dinner. He’s the guy that approves Visas for Vietnamese people to go to the United States so he’s a really good connection to have. My brother plans on using him to get [a sister-in-law’s Visa to go to the States so [the sister-in-law] will most likely travel back with me in August . . . he just likes to people watch — he does this with the consulate guy (Mike) and they check out girls.”
In a chat dated June 27, 2012, Co-conspirator 3 discussed the sister-in-law referenced in the above paragraph. “I applied for her Visa. . .so her interview is July 13th . . . and I told the consulate guy . . . so he said he’ll pull her file . . . but now he knows our family . . . so he’s more trusting . . . but she’1l most likely get accepted this time . . . because Mike will pull up her file . . . and he considers [Co-conspirator 1] like his best friend.”
During an electronic chat between Co-conspirator 1 and Co-conspirator 3, dated June 1, 2012, the same day that Sestak issued a visa to the sister-in-law discussed above, Co-conspirator 1 and Co-conspirator 3 had the following exchange:
CO-CONSPIRATOR 1: so [the sister-in-law] has her visa now, what did she say?
CO-CONSPIRATOR 1: did Mike interview her?
CO-CONSPIRATOR 3: because when she sat and waited
CO-CONSPIRATOR 3: the number she had… wasn’t supposed to be for Mike’s room
CO-CONSPIRATOR 3: but she ended up in his room
CO-CONSPIRATOR 3: of course he interviewed her . . .
CO-CONSPIRATOR 3: we have to figure out how
CO-CONSPIRATOR 3: she can stay over there LEGIT though . . .
CO-CONSPIRATOR 3: so it doesn’t make mike look bad.
In an electronic chat with Co-conspirator 2 dated October 12, 2011, Co-conspirator 1 wrote, “Finished yr parents applications… Mike is w/a couple of girls at Windows, but I am too lazy to join him. . . . I’ll text him soon to see if he has finished yet so that I can go give him the applications so that he can get the visas by Fri. for us.” The following day, Sestak issued visas for Co-conspirator 2’s parents.
(To be continued – Next issue: Payments in visa fraud scam)