Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 03050241 (posted May. 2, 2003)"
Department of Justice
For Immediate Release
TDD (202) 514-1888
Thursday, May 1, 2003
Two U.S. State Department Employees and Seven Others Charged in
Scheme To Sell Visas
WASHINGTON, D.C.- Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff of the Criminal
Division and McGregor W. Scott, United States Attorney for the Eastern District
of California announced today that a federal grand jury in Sacramento returned
an 18-count indictment charging nine persons, including two former State
Department employees, in connection with an alleged corrupt scheme, operating
out of the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka, to sell entry visas to the United States.
The indictment followed the arrests of eight of the nine defendants and
searches at five locations in three states. According to a 130-page complaint
unsealed in Sacramento yesterday, the scheme allegedly involved the payment of
hundreds of thousands of dollars by persons in Sacramento and elsewhere to two
married State Department employees between 2000 and 2003, in exchange for the
issuance of visas to various foreign nationals, primarily from Vietnam and
The complaint further alleges that Acey R. Johnson, while working in the
consular affairs section of the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka, issued visas to
scores of persons pursuant to the scheme.
The indictment charges all nine defendants with conspiring to defraud the
United States and to bribe public officials and to commit visa fraud. The
charged defendants are: Long N. Lee, 51, a State Department Foreign Service
Officer and career State Department employee; Acey R. Johnson, 32, who is
married to Long N. Lee and was until recently a Consular Associate employed in
the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka; Vinesh Prasad, 33, of
Sacramento; his brother Minesh Prasad, 28, of Sacramento; Narinderjit Singh
Bhullar, 40, of Sacramento; his brother Davinder Singh Bhullar, 44, of India;
Phuong-Hien Lam Trinh, 35, of Torrance, California; Rajwant S. Virk, 46, of
Herndon, Virginia; and Rachhpal Singh, 32, of Hayward, California. The
indictment also charges some of the defendants with additional charges. The
status of the defendants is as follows:
Acey R. Johnson, 32, who was until recently a Consular Associate employed in
the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka, was arrested on the
morning of Tuesday, April 29, 2003, at his home in Port Orford, Oregon by
Special Agents with the Diplomatic Security Service of the U.S. State Department
("DSS") and the FBI. He appeared in U.S. District Court yesterday in Medford,
Oregon, and was ordered detained pending further proceedings in Medford on
Monday, May 5, 2003 at 1:30 p.m.
Long N. Lee, 51, a State Department Foreign Service Officer and career State
Department employee, who is married to defendant Johnson, was arrested at Dulles
International Airport yesterday evening after being escorted from the U.S.
Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka to the United States by DSS agents. She is
scheduled to appear today at 2:00 p.m. before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in
Alexandria, Virginia. Long had been the chief administrative officer at the
Vinesh Prasad, 33, and Minesh Prasad, 28, of Sacramento, were arrested
Tuesday morning, April 29, 2003, at their home in Sacramento. They appeared
yesterday before a Magistrate Judge in Sacramento, and were ordered detained
pending further proceedings on Wednesday, May 7, 2003, at 2:00 p.m.
Narinderjit Singh Bhullar, 40, of Sacramento, was arrested Tuesday morning at
his home in Sacramento. He appeared before a Magistrate Judge that same day, and
was scheduled to appear again for further proceedings today at 2:00 p.m. in
Phuong-Hien Lam Trinh, 35, of Torrance, California, was arrested Tuesday
morning at her home in Torrance. She appeared yesterday before a Magistrate
Judge in Los Angeles, who ordered her released upon the posting of bail in the
amount of $100,000 secured by real property. She was ordered to appear in
Sacramento on Friday, May 9, 2003, at 2:00 p.m.
Rajwant S. Virk, 46, of Herndon, Virginia, was arrested Tuesday morning at
his home in Herndon. He appeared that same day before a Magistrate Judge in
Alexandria, Virginia. He was released on bond and is expected to appear there
again today at 2:00 p.m. for further proceedings.
Rachhpal Singh, 32, of Hayward, California, was arrested Tuesday morning at
his home Hayward. He appeared yesterday before a Magistrate Judge in San
Francisco, where he was released on bond and ordered to appear in U.S. District
Court in Sacramento on Tuesday, May 6, 2003, at 2:00 p.m.
Davinder Singh Bhullar, 44, remains at large and is believed to be in India.
He is currently a fugitive in an unrelated criminal case also pending in U.S.
District Court in Sacramento.
In addition to the conspiracy charged against all defendants, defendants
Johnson, Lee and Vinesh and Minesh Prasad are each charged with ten counts of
wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, and one count of bribery. Defendants Vinesh
and Minesh Prasad, Narinderjit Singh Bhullar and his brother Davinder Singh
Bhullar are charged with one count of visa fraud, and Narinderjit and Davinder
Singh Bhullar are each charged with one count of wire fraud. Vinesh Prasad is
further charged with one count of encouraging illegal entry of aliens for
financial gain, and with two counts of money laundering. Finally, Narinderjit
Singh Bhullar is charged with one count of money laundering.
Each of the charges in the indictment is a felony. The maximum sentence for
the conspiracy charge, and for each wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering
charge is five years in prison. The visa fraud and encouraging entry by aliens
charges each has a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, and the bribery charge
has a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. Each count in the indictment also
carries a penalty of up to a three-year period of supervised release, and a
$250,000 fine. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of various properties, bank
accounts, and over $175,000 in cash seized during searches on Tuesday.
The case is being prosecuted in U.S. District Court in Sacramento by
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Benjamin B. Wagner and S. Robert Tice-Raskin of the
U.S. Attorney's Office, and Noah D. Bookbinder of the Public Integrity Section,
headed by Noel L. Hillman, Chief. The case is the product of an extensive
investigation conducted by the Diplomatic Security Service and the Joint
Terrorism Task Force for the Eastern District of California, a task force
headquartered at the FBI offices in Sacramento. Sri Lankan law enforcement
authorities also provided assistance in the investigation. The U.S. Attorney
thanked the U.S. Ambassador in Sri Lanka, E. Ashley Wills, for his assistance.
The United States Attorney's Office noted that the complaint and indictment
are only accusations, and that the defendants are presumed innocent until and
unless proven guilty.