US arrests, charges Vietnamese-American millionaire for visa fraud

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A screen capture of Binh and Nguyen Thuy Anh Dao's wedding video from November 2012. Michael T. Sestak (L), the former head of the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City's Non-Immigrant Visa Division apparently served as Binh's best man at the lavish wedding, which friends say cost more than US$300,000.

The US government has arrested the Vietnamese American man they have accused of orchestrating a multi-million dollar scheme to obtain non-immigrant visas for unqualified applicants who paid as much as $70,000 per visa.  

Vo Tang Binh, 39, was taken into custody at Dulles International Airport in Washington DC on Tuesday. The millionaire businessman and longtime Ho Chi Minh City expatriate was immediately brought before a judge and charged with bribery, visa fraud and conspiracy to commit those offenses as well as to defraud the United States.

As of press time, no one from the Justice Department had responded to an inquiry as to his whereabouts for the past five months. It is not yet clear whether Binh surrendered or was apprehended abroad.

Earlier this year, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper cited an anonymous immigration official as saying that Vo last entered Vietnam in early April and had not left.

According to a release issued Wednesday, the Justice Department has issued a warrant for the arrest of his Vietnamese wife, Nguyen Thuy Anh Dao (aka Alice Vo) whom remains at large.

The couple's whereabouts have been the subject of broad speculation since the May arrests of their alleged co-conspirators: Binh's younger sister Hong Vo, 27, his Vietnamese cousin Truc Tranh Huynh, 29 and Consular Officer Michael T. Sestak, 42.

Sestak was apprehended in Bangkok and confessed to his role in the scheme during a taped interview with State Department Investigators. According to affidavits filed by the investigators, Sestak claimed that Binh had funneled nearly $3 million into Thailand through Chinese banks on his behalf.

The extent to which the Vo family profited from the scheme remains unclear. According to the Justice Department release, the investigators have seized over $2 million from accounts in the United States.

"[Binh] Vo received millions of dollars for arranging for Sestak to approve the visas," the release stated.  "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."

None of the defendants in this case have been charged with money laundering.

Binh could not be reached for comment as of press time.

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