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Reddy brother, sister-in-law plead guilty

Michael Coffino Daily Planet Correspondent
Tuesday March 06, 2001

The brother and sister-in-law of Lakireddy Bali Reddy, the wealthy Berkeley landlord at the center of an alleged scheme to smuggle Indian teenagers into the United States for sex and cheap labor, pleaded guilty Monday to participating with Reddy in a conspiracy to commit immigration fraud that federal prosecutors say dates back to 1986. 

Pursuant to a plea deal with the United States Attorney’s office, Annapurna Lakireddy, Reddy’s 47-year-old sister-in-law, will likely serve between six months and one year in prison for her part in a crime that allegedly supplied the 63-year-old Reddy with underage sex partners and workers. In a separate plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to recommend that her husband, Jayprakash Lakireddy, a 46-year-old Oakland building contractor and Reddy sibling, serve a prison sentence of between 10 and 16 months.  

Both defendants pleaded guilty Monday to one count of conspiring to commit immigration fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Oakland federal district court judge Saundra Brown Armstrong could still reject the plea agreement, or set sentences within the ranges agreed to in the plea deal. Armstrong said Monday she would sentence the pair on July 24. 

Shortly after entering his guilty plea, Jayprakash Lakireddy appeared subdued but unrepentant. He told the Daily Planet he was not primarily to blame for the long-running immigration offenses, which allegedly involved filing fraudulent H1-B visa applications on behalf of Indian immigrants, some of whom ended up working at Lakireddy’s construction company.  

“I am not the main person involved in this,” he said after the hearing. He said that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and that he was not aware that people hired by his construction firm had entered the country illegally. “I am just a contractor,” he said. But he acknowledged the technical accuracy of the charge. “I was in the ring,” he said in reference to the conspiracy. “Whether I am guilty or not, I was in the ring,” he said. 

Reddy, a Berkeley restaurant owner and real estate tycoon whose property holdings are valued at $70 million, also appeared in court Monday clad in his customary suit jacket and running shoes, but did not enter a guilty plea as expected after Armstrong questioned whether federal sentencing guidelines would permit her to allow Reddy to remain free on bail once he pleaded guilty. Reddy’s lawyer and United States Attorney John W. Kennedy agreed to address that issue at a hearing before Judge Armstrong this morning. Reddy is charged with importing minors for illegal sexual activity and with tax and immigration offenses. The maximum combined sentence for those crimes is 23 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.  

Two of Reddy’s sons, 31-year-old Vijay Kumar Lakireddy and 42-year-old Prasad Lakireddy, have also been charged in the case. No trial date has been set for the pair, who were originally part of a “package” plea bargain agreement with federal prosecutors but decided late last year not to enter guilty pleas after all. In the plea deal struck with Annapurna and Jayprakash Lakireddy on Monday, prosecutors agreed not to call the husband and wife to testify against Reddy’s sons.  

In a related development last Friday, Judge Armstrong granted in part a request by the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News to unseal a number of documents in the case on free speech grounds, including documents related to the plea agreements.  

But Armstrong refused to make available to the public a statement submitted in connection with an application for a search warrant in the case, as well as financial information pertaining to one defendant and materials related to the grand jury proceeding in the case. The judge wrote in her order that “sensational and inflammatory” publicity of the case, including headlines she called “lurid and incendiary,” posed a danger to the defendants’ right to a fair trial.