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Department of Justice Seal Department of Justice

FRIDAY, JUNE 6, 2003
(202) 514-2008
TDD (202) 514-1888


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott of the Eastern District of California announced today that Rajwant S. Virk has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, Calif., to one count of conspiring to defraud the United States, bribe State Department officials and commit visa fraud.

Virk, 46, of Herndon, Virginia, is one of nine defendants charged as part of an ongoing visa fraud investigation. Virk has agreed to cooperate with the government’s continuing investigation. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison at sentencing, scheduled for Aug. 22, 2003.

Seven other defendants charged in a May 1, 2003 indictment also appeared today before U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell. Judge Burrell also heard argument on a motion relating to the bail status of defendants Vinesh Prasad, 33, and Minesh Pradad, 28, both of Sacramento. Defendants Acey R. Johnson, 32, who until recently was a Consular Associate employed in the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka, and his spouse Long N. Lee, a State Department Foreign Service Officer and career State Department employee, are also in federal custody. Defendants Narinderjit Singh Bhullar, 40, of Sacramento, Phuong-Hien Lam Trinh, 35, of Torrance, Calif., and Rachhpal Singh, 32, of Hayward, Calif., were previously released on bail.

The ninth defendant charged in the case is a fugitive.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed April 29, 2003, the defendants were allegedly involved in a scheme in which Johnson and Lee took hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes between 2000 and 2003 in exchange for the issuance of visas to various foreign nationals, primarily from Vietnam and India. In his plea today, Virk admitted that he started making payments to Johnson and Lee in 1999 to obtain visas for others wishing to enter the United States. He also admitted that in 2002 and 2003, he coordinated the travel of aliens to Sri Lanka directly with defendant Long Lee, where the aliens were given visas at the U.S. Embassy to enter the United States. Virk also admitted that, after arranging for the issuance of the visas, Lee instructed Virk to purchase cashiers checks in amounts under $10,000, payable to Lee and Johnson, to their relatives, and to accounts which they controlled. Virk also admitted that he delivered cash to family members of Lee.

In addition to a conspiracy charge against all defendants, several of the defendants are charged with wire fraud, bribery, visa fraud and other felony offenses. 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 Section Chief Noel L. Hillman. The case is the product of an extensive investigation conducted by the Diplomatic Security Service of the U.S. Department of State, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center (CATIC) and several other state and federal agencies associated with the Joint Terrorism Task Force for the Eastern District of California, including the California Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Bureau of Immigration Control and Enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security. Sri Lankan law enforcement authorities also provided assistance in the investigation.