//US Judge reimposes 97-month term on Lakireddy Bali Reddy.

US Judge reimposes 97-month term on Lakireddy Bali Reddy.

Reddy sought reduction of sentence for illegally bringing girls and women into U.S.

By Josh Richman, insidebayarea.com

OAKLAND — A federal judge resentenced a Berkeley businessman Monday to the 97-month prison term he had drawn in 2001 for bringing girls and women from India to the Bay Area for cheap labor and sexual favors.

Despite statements in court Monday from five of Lakireddy Bali Reddy's seven living victims that they supported an earlier release, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken said the two other victims' unrebutted testimony of extreme emotional distress from Reddy's crimes was sufficient basis for her to reimpose the sentence term.

Reddy, 69, is in the federal prison at Lompoc; his projected release date, unchanged by Monday's hearing, remains April 2, 2008.

He and his son, Vijay Lakireddy, first were indicted in 2000, accused of having had an Indian man pose as the father of two sisters to bring them into the country on fraudulent temporary work visas. The elder sister died in November 1999 of carbon monoxide poisoning after a heater in her Berkeley apartment malfunctioned.

Prosecutors said these girls and others brought here by similar means were used by Reddy as workers at his and his family's businesses, and for his own sexual gratification.

Reddy pleaded guilty in 2001 to two counts of importing minors for immoral sexual purposes and one count each of tax fraud and conspiracy to commit immigration fraud.

Defense attorneys Cristina Arguedas and Ted Cassman in recent years had convinced Wilken to reexamine his sentence — imposed by Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong, who since has recused herself from the case for unknown reasons — due to problems that came to light soon after his 2001 plea bargain. Several victims claimed Telegu-speaking interpreter Uma Rao of Berkeley had urged them to exaggerate or embellish their testimony, or had misrepresented their testimony in translation.

At issue was whether victims' statements to a probation officer for a preresentencing report were reliable and detailed enough. The defense argued for a maximum of 78 months.

"Judge Armstrong was reading lies" when she relied on the probation report to demand a tough sentence for Reddy, Arguedas said Monday, adding Rao's damage to the case "is something that affected everything that happened here. … She should be prosecuted for what she did."

Eight victims figured in the case. One is the person who died in 1999; five of the others were in court to describe the case's impact on them. Some praised Reddy's role in bringing them to the United States and some actually urged his early release; none objected to reducing his sentence.

But Wilken said she was convinced to stick by the same 97-month term by the earlier testimony of two victims who've stuck by their original accounts, and who weren't present in court Monday. Reddy long since has paid the $2 million in restitution imposed with his original sentence.

Vijay Lakireddy pleaded guilty in 2002 to one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and was sentenced to two years in prison, which he has served. Prasad Lakireddy pleaded guilty in 2003 to one count of conspiracy to employ unauthorized aliens and was sentenced to one year of home detention, a $20,000 fine and 300 hours of community service.

Reddy's brother and sister-in-law, Jayaprakash and Annapurna Lakireddy, each pleaded guilty to one count of immigration fraud in 2001; he was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison and was released last June, while she served six months of home detention and paid a $2,000 fine. Venkateswara Vemireddy, who'd posed as the girls' father, was given probation and deported to India.

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