A State Department employee who sold U.S. visas on the black market in Vietnam for up to $70,000 a pop was sentenced Friday to 64 months in prison, after a scam authorities said allows hundreds of travelers who had previously been denied entry to sneak into the U.S.
The scheme, which involved a handful of people and netted more than $9 million during two years that it ran, submitted about 500 fraudulent visa applications, and almost all of them were granted — even though many of the same people had been denied visas before.
Michael T. Sestak, who ran the non-immigrant visa section of the consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, took home about $3 million of that, which he laundered through buying properties in Thailand, federal authorities said.
“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,” said Vincent H. Cohen Jr., acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
Sestak pleaded guilty in 2013. Several others in the case have already been sentenced, including one American citizen living in Vietnam who made more than $5 million from the scam. He was sentenced to serve eight years in prison.
Authorities said Sestak colluded with both American and Vietnamese citizens in Ho Chi Minh City to recruit and approve visas, using his position as chief of the division that reviewed the applications.
Payments ranged from $15,000 to $70,000, and many of the people had previously been denied visas, but were approved by Sestak’s scheme, prosecutors said.