WASHINGTON, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- A former U.S. diplomat in Vietnam was sentenced to five years in prison Friday for accepting $3 million in bribes in exchange for visas to enter the United States.
Michael Sestak, 44, a visa official in the Ho Chi Minh City consular section, was among several people who created or submitted some 500 fraudulent applications, most approved, for non-immigrants seeking visas to enter the United States. He pleaded guilty on Nov. 6, 2013, to conspiracy and bribery charges. He was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release following his prison sentence and pay back part of the $6 million judgment against him.
"As a foreign service officer, Michael Sestak should have been upholding his responsibilities to the United States, not illegally cashing in by collecting over $3 million in bribes to short-circuit our visa process," said Acting U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen, Jr. "Because of this defendant's selfish greed, nearly 500 foreign nationals were able to enter the United States without the proper screening. This sentence reflects the seriousness of his corrupt conduct."
Sestak, a former police officer and Deputy U.S. Marshal, was arrested on May 13, 2013, and has been in custody ever since. In pleading guilty, he agreed to assist in the government's investigation and forfeiture of the proceeds of the crimes, including the proceeds from the sale of nine properties he purchased in China to launder the money.
The Department of Justice said Sestak worked with three others -- Binh Tang Vo and his sister, Hong Vo, both U.S. citizens who had been living in Vietnam, and their cousin, Truc Tranh Huynh, a Vietnamese citizen -- in the scheme.
Prosecutors said from August 2010 to September 2012, Vietnamese citizens paid Sestak and the others up to $70,000 for visas to enter the U.S.