After detaining three suspects, police in Ho Chi Minh City are expanding their investigation of a syndicate that produced counterfeit documents to make applicants for US visas seem more appealing.
Chu Hai Hung, 43, was detained Monday with his wife Pham Thi Hang, 38, and Ho Sy Hieu, 35, news website VnExpress reported.
Hieu took the couple from the north-central province of Ha Tinh to file two sets of documents for immigration to the US at the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday, but checks found they were fake, the news site said.
Hung and Hang said they wanted to go to the US to find jobs.
An acquaintance named Hoi offered to get them tourism visas for US$11,000 each in late 2013.
Last May, Hoi asked the couple to go to Laos to receive the documents from a person named Vo Thai Xuan, and transfer $1,000 to her account as advanced payment. The rest was to be paid after their registration went through.
The documents included two passports, a statement to confirm the existence of a VND1 billion ($47,200) savings account at VietinBank, and a license for a commerce and construction company.
All of the documents were manufactured to make the couple seem more eligible for a visa.
Hieu said he did not know much of Hoi’s background.
Police say they are monitoring two woodworkers from Ha Tinh Province who reside in HCMC and allegedly accompanied Hieu and the couple to the consulate.
The two said Hieu asked them to come meet a couple of fellow Ha Tinh residents and they were unaware of the visa scam.
In May 2013, US investigators arrested a consular officer named Michael T. Sestak, 42, who was stationed in HCMC between August 2010 and September 2012 for accepting more than $3 million in bribes in exchange for issuing nearly 500 visitor visas.
Sestak confessed to his role in the fraud and agreed to forfeit all proceeds from the scam and could faces, at minimum, 360 months in prison.
The US Attorney's office claims found Sestak was recruited by his co-conspirators (several of whom have already been tried and released) and that the scheme generated at least $9.78 million.
The recent arrests appear unrelated to the multi-million dollar scheme.