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Sentencing delayed in Lakireddy case

Matthew Artz
Monday September 30, 2002

Vijay Lakireddy, 32, remains free on $500,000 bond after a federal judge postponed his sentencing in connection with a family sex smuggling ring. 

The son of convicted felon and Berkeley real estate magnate Lakireddy Bali Reddy, Vijay Lakireddy was scheduled to be sentenced today on one charge of immigration fraud. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken postponed sentencing until Nov. 18 but did not give an explanation for the delay. 

Lakireddy will be the fourth member of his family incarcerated in connection with an immigration scheme to import Indian girls for sex and cheap labor at family businesses. 

Reddy, the alleged ringleader, was sentenced to eight years in jail, while his brother and sister-in-law were each given lighter punishments for aiding the scheme. 

Last June, Lakireddy agreed to a plea bargain with prosecutors. He admitted to falsifying a visa for an Indian man, Venkateswara Vemireddy, who posed as the father of two Indian girls living illegally in the United States. In return, prosecutors dropped more serious charges that Lakireddy helped import the girls for sexual purposes.  

The conviction calls for a maximum penalty of five years, but attorneys for both sides have asked Judge Wilken to accept a two-year sentence and $2 million fine. 

However, the judge retains discretion to adjust the punishment. In the case of Lakireddy’s father, Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong tacked on an additional two years to a six-year deal struck by prosecutors and defense attorneys. 

Diana Russell of Women Against Sexual Slavery hopes that Judge Wilken will ignore the terms of this plea bargain as well. “Two years seems preposterous to me,” said Russell. “They have all gotten away with very light punishments.” 

Police began investigating the family in November of 1999 after a 17-year-old Indian girl died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a downtown apartment owned by Reddy. 

The girl’s 15-year-old sister survived the gas poisoning, caused by a blocked heating vent, and told federal authorities that she and her sister were flown to the United States and forced to have sex. 

Currently Reddy’s brother Jayprakash Lakireddy is serving a one-year sentence at a halfway house for immigration fraud, while his sister-in-law, Annapuma Lakireddy is completing the last month of a six-month home detention sentence for the same crime. 

In January, Parsad Lakireddy, the brother of Vijay Lakireddy, is scheduled to go to trial on charges ranging from immigration fraud to intent to engage in sex with a juvenile.