YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


2 U.S. Foreign Service Staffers Accused of Plot

Married pair stationed in Sri Lanka are charged with taking money to issue visas to scores of foreigners. Seven others are indicted.

May 02, 2003|From Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — Two married State Department employees, including the chief administrative officer at the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka, were indicted Thursday for allegedly accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars to issue visas to foreign citizens who wanted to enter the United States.

Seven others are also named in the federal indictment issued in Sacramento. Eight of the nine defendants have been arrested after searches of five locations in three states that yielded more than $175,000 in cash, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Acey R. Johnson, 32, until recently employed in the consular section of the embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka, is accused of issuing scores of entry visas to residents primarily of India and Vietnam from 2000 to 2001.

He was arrested Tuesday morning at his home in Port Orford, Ore., by the FBI and special agents of the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service. He is being held for an appearance Monday at the federal courthouse in Medford, Ore.

Johnson's wife since 1992, 51-year-old Long N. Lee, was arrested Wednesday after she was escorted from the embassy in Sri Lanka to Dulles International Airport outside Washington by State Department agents. She is a career Foreign Service employee who was the embassy's chief administrative officer.

All nine are charged with conspiring to defraud the U.S., bribe public officials and commit visa fraud. Besides the couple, all but one of the other seven were arrested Tuesday at their homes, based on a federal complaint unsealed Wednesday.

They are Phuong-Hien Lam Trinh, 35, of Torrance; Vinesh Prasad, 33, his brother Minesh Prasad, 28, and Narinderjit Singh Bhullar, 40, all of Sacramento; Bhullar's brother Davinder, 44, of India; Rajwant Virk, 46, of Herndon, Va.; and Rachhpal Singh, 32, of Hayward, Calif.

Most are visa brokers who paid Johnson and Lee to issue the visas, alleges an affidavit unsealed in Sacramento. Davinder Singh Bhullar is still at large.

Los Angeles Times Articles