[Stop-traffic] News/US: 7 Articles on the Berkeley Landlord Case

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/US: 7 Articles on the Berkeley Landlord Case
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon Nov 20 2000 - 12:15:08 EST


Monkey Wrench in Berkeley Plea Deal
Son of landlord in immigrant smuggling case insists he's not guilty,
forces new indictment

<mailto:hlee@sfchronicle.com>Matthew Yi and Henry K. Lee, Chronicle
Staff Writers Tuesday, December 19, 2000
<http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/#sections>

A son of a Berkeley landlord facing federal charges of smuggling
illegal immigrants from India will not plead guilty, a defense
attorney said this morning, jeopardizing a plea bargain with
prosecutors that involves both defendants and three other relatives.

"At this point, Mr. Prasad Lakireddy . . . is going to plead not
guilty," his attorney, Paul Wolf, said after a brief hearing in
federal court in Oakland.

U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong had ordered Lakireddy,
42, of Lafayette; his real estate tycoon father, Lakireddy Bali
Reddy, 63; and three other family members facing federal charges to
appear in court today because Lakireddy had failed to meet with
probation officers for a presentencing report.

The report was supposed to be part of a package plea agreement with
federal prosecutors.

However, Lakireddy changed his mind Dec. 11, throwing into question
the proposed deal under which all five defendants were to have
changed their pleas to guilty Feb. 6, Assistant U.S. Attorney John
Kennedy and attorneys for the five defendants said in a joint filing
in U.S. District Court in Oakland yesterday.

Kennedy confirmed in court today that he plans to issue a new
indictment -- with additional charges -- and proceed to trial for all
of the defendants.

Armstrong agreed to delay the next court date until Feb. 27.

Lakireddy said after the hearing that he had agreed to go with the
plea deal out of loyalty toward his father, to help him put an end to
the yearlong case.

"I have three children and a wife. I also have to be loyal to them,"
he added. "I'm innocent. I have never victimized anybody. (Our family
has) never victimized anyone."

Charged with Lakireddy and Reddy are Vijay Lakireddy, 31, of
Berkeley, another son of Reddy; Jayaprakash Lakireddy, 47, of
Oakland, the landlord's brother; and Annapurna Lakireddy, 46,
Jayaprakash Lakireddy's wife.

The family members were charged with conspiring since 1986 to
illegally bring aliens into the United States from India by
submitting false visa applications.

Prasad Lakireddy and two other defendants also have refused to meet
with probation officers for interviews, which are required before
they could be sentenced under plea bargains, court records show.

The case came to light after Chanti Prattipati, 17, and her
15-year-old sister suffered carbon monoxide poisoning in a
Reddy-owned apartment in downtown Berkeley on Nov. 24, 1999.
Prattipati died, but her sister survived and told police that
Lakireddy Bali Reddy had had sex with them and used them for cheap
labor.

Reddy also faces allegations of illegally bringing in teenage girls
from India for sex and cheap labor.

E-mail Matthew Yi at myi@sfchronicle.com and Henry K. Lee at
hlee@sfchronicle.com.

__________________
Berkeley Landlord's Son Refuses to Plead Guilty
Plea bargain in doubt for 5 in Reddy family

<mailto:hlee@sfchronicle.com>Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 19, 2000
<http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/#sections>

Berkeley -- The proposed plea bargains involving a Berkeley landlord
and four relatives charged with bringing immigrants illegally from
India is in jeopardy because one of the defendants is refusing to
plead guilty, according to court documents filed yesterday.

Prasad Lakireddy, 42, of Lafayette, the son of Berkeley real estate
tycoon Lakireddy Bali Reddy, 63, "changed his mind" on Dec. 11,
throwing into question a proposed deal under which all five
defendants were to have pleaded guilty on Feb. 6, Assistant U.S.
Attorney John Kennedy and attorneys for the five defendants said in a
joint filing in U.S. District Court in Oakland.

If no settlement is reached, Kennedy said he plans to issue a new
indictment -- with additional charges -- and proceed to trial for all
five defendants.

The attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong, who
will hold a hearing in the case today, to delay the next court date
until Feb. 27.

Charged with Lakireddy and Reddy are Vijay Lakireddy, 31, of
Berkeley, another son of Reddy's; Jayaprakash Lakireddy, 47, of
Oakland, the landlord's brother; and Annapurna Lakireddy, 46,
Jayaprakash Lakireddy's wife.

The five family members were charged with conspiring since 1986 to
illegally bring aliens into the United States from India by
submitting false visa applications.

Prasad Lakireddy declined to comment yesterday. His attorney, Paul
Wolf of Oakland, said, "There are always inherent problems to a
package deal."

Prasad Lakireddy and two other defendants have also refused to meet
with probation officers for interviews, which are required before
they could be sentenced under plea bargains, court records show.

The case came to light after Chanti Prattipati, 17, and her
15-year-old sister suffered carbon monoxide poisoning in a
Reddy-owned apartment in downtown Berkeley on Nov. 24, 1999.
Prattipati died, but her sister survived and told police that
Lakireddy Reddy had had sex with them and used them for cheap labor.

E-mail Henry K. Lee at hlee@sfchronicle.com.

________________

Berkeley Landlord Back in Court Tuesday
Judge acts because of skipped meetings

<mailto:chronfeedback@sfchronicle.com>Matthew Yi, Chronicle Staff
Writer Saturday, December 16, 2000
<http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/#sections>

Berkeley -- A federal judge has ordered a Berkeley landlord and four
relatives -- all facing charges of bringing immigrants illegally from
India -- to return to court next week because some of them have not
met with probation officers.

U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong ordered Tuesday's hearing
after learning that some of the defendants have refused to attend the
interviews, which are required before they could be sentenced under
plea bargains, according to court records.

Real estate tycoon Lakireddy Bali Reddy, 63; his two sons, Vijay
Kumar Lakireddy, 31, and Prasad Lakireddy, 42; Reddy's brother,
Jayaprakash Lakireddy, 47; and sister-in-law Annapurna Lakireddy, 46,
were expected to plead guilty on Feb. 6.

U.S. Probation Officer Michele Horton wrote a letter to Armstrong
saying that Reddy's son, Prasad Lakireddy, has canceled two scheduled
meetings -- Nov.

16 and Dec. 7 -- without rescheduling a new one.

Apparently, the pattern has been consistent with at least two other
defendants, according to a document filed in court by Armstrong.

"The Court has been informed that at least three defendants have
refused to present themselves for preplea assessments," Armstrong
wrote Thursday.

Because the defendants will not meet with probation officers, there
is no reason to put off the next court hearing until Feb. 6, she
wrote, and ordered all parties to appear before her on Tuesday.

On Oct. 30, the two sides were attempting to hold their
change-of-plea hearing behind closed doors, but a media attorney
objected, saying a secret hearing on the matter is illegal.

Reddy's attorney, Ted Cassman, argued then that if Armstrong rejects
the plea deal, it would be difficult to find an impartial jury in
Northern California for a trial, because the case has received so
much media attention.

But Armstrong sided with the media attorney and reversed her earlier ruling,

opening the plea bargain hearing to the public.

Cassman and four other defense attorneys asked for a presentencing
report to be completed before they strike a deal with prosecutors,
and Armstrong set a Feb. 6 court date.

Telephone calls to the defense attorneys and federal prosecutors were
not returned yesterday.

The case broke a year ago when Chanti Prattipati, 17, and her younger
sister suffered carbon monoxide poisoning in a Reddy-owned apartment
in downtown Berkeley on Nov. 24, 1999.

Chanti was pronounced dead at Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley,
but her sister survived, telling police that they were smuggled into
the United States by Reddy from India and that he had sex with them
as well as with their third roommate.

Lawyers representing the surviving sister and their parents also have
filed a civil wrongful-death lawsuit against defendants that include
Reddy, his real estate company and previous owners of the apartment
building where Chanti died.

E-mail Matthew Yi at myi@sfchronicle.com.
______________
Parents Of Dead Girl Sue Landlord
Death led to probe of immigration, sex

<mailto:chronfeedback@sfchronicle.com>Matthew Yi, Chronicle Staff
Writer Wednesday, November 29, 2000
<http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/#sections>

Berkeley -- A Berkeley landlord facing federal criminal charges of
smuggling teenage girls from India for cheap labor and sex now faces
a wrongful-death and negligence civil lawsuit.

The suit was filed Monday on behalf of the parents of Chanti
Prattipati, who died of carbon monoxide poisoning a year ago, and her
younger sister who survived the fumes in their one-bedroom downtown
Berkeley apartment.

The surviving girl, who is now in protective custody, told
authorities she and her sister were brought to the United States by
Berkeley real estate tycoon Lakireddy Bali Reddy and that he
regularly had sex with them.

The girls were staying at a Reddy-owned apartment when they were
overcome by carbon monoxide fumes from a faulty heater on Nov. 24,
1999.

Prattipati, 17, was pronounced dead at Alta Bates Medical Center in
Berkeley. The death was declared accidental.

However, it prompted a criminal investigation involving allegations
against Reddy, 63, and some of his family members that for years they
applied for fraudulent visas, smuggled in illegal immigrants from
India and forced them to work with little or no pay in Reddy-owned
businesses. Reddy has also been charged with transporting a minor in
foreign commerce for illegal sexual activity.

The lawsuit, said Jayashri Srikantiah, an attorney for the American
Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants Rights Project, "is just one part
of an overall effort to make sure that the victims are compensated
for what they suffered."

The ACLU and two other immigration attorneys have been working on a
possible class-action civil lawsuit against Reddy and his relatives,
but the focus has now changed to negotiating a settlement with the
defendants, said Michael Rubin, a San Francisco immigration attorney
who is representing the family of Prattipati.

"We are discussing . . . the potential liabilities and the damages to
the plaintiffs," Rubin said. "However, we are prepared to file a
comprehensive civil class-action complaint against a range of
co-conspirators, both individuals and corporations, if we can't
resolve the issues."

The wrongful-death suit was filed despite the settlement talks
because the statute of limitations would have run out on Monday,
Rubin said.

Also named as defendants are Reddy's real estate company, the former
owners of the apartment building that had the faulty heater, and
Berkeley-based Caldwell-Roland Roofing Inc., which made repairs on
the roof months before the accidental death.

Shortly after the accident, city inspectors found insulation debris
and metal flashing clogging the vent behind the second-floor
apartment where the girls lived, according to acting Berkeley
building official Hilary Herman.

The apartment building was sold by a group of owners to Reddy in July 1999.

Telephone calls to the attorneys representing the named defendants
were not returned yesterday.

Reddy, who owns about 1,100 apartment units in the East Bay, is free
on $10 million bail. His sons, Vijay Kumar Lakireddy, 31, and Prasad
Lakireddy, 42, and two other relatives also face criminal charges
ranging from conspiracy to income tax violations.

Lawyers for the defendants apparently tried to strike a deal with
federal prosecutors behind closed doors last month, but that effort
was thwarted by a media attorney who argued that the hearing was
against the law.

Defense attorneys asked for more time and U.S. District Judge Saundra
Brown Armstrong set Feb. 6 for the next court hearing, in which the
defendants can change their pleas and be sentenced as part of a
settlement agreement with prosecutors.

E-mail Matthew Yi at myi@sfchronicle.com.

_______________
Landlord, Kin Delay Pleas in Sex Case
Attorneys tried to close proceedings to press

<mailto:hlee@sfchronicle.com>Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 31, 2000
<http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/#sections>

BERKELEY -- A Berkeley landlord and four relatives accused of illegally bringing young women from India to the United States postponed entering guilty pleas yesterday in Oakland after their attorneys tried to hold the hearing behind closed doors.

Lakireddy Bali Reddy, 63, Berkeley's wealthiest landlord, two sons, a brother and a sister-in-law will enter their pleas and be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong on Feb. 6.

Citing media interest in the case, their attorneys obtained an order from the judge Friday to bar news reporters from attending yesterday's proceedings, during which four of the defendants were to have entered guilty pleas as part of agreements with the federal government. Reddy's sister-in-law was to have entered a guilty plea today .

After a closed three-hour hearing during which Armstrong heard objections from San Francisco media attorney Roger Myers, the judge lifted her order.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kennedy said he had no problems moving forward with the pleas. But Reddy's attorney, Ted Cassman of Emeryville, said the defense attorneys wanted to wait for probation reports to be completed before going forward with any pleas.

Attorneys on both sides had initially sought to keep the details of any pleas secret -- and the hearings sealed -- until the judge approved the plea agreements. If any guilty pleas were later changed to not guilty, the defendants' rights to a fair trial could be jeopardized if the pleas were made in public, they said.

Reddy, sons Vijay Lakireddy, 31, of Berkeley and Prasad Lakireddy, 42, of Lafayette, brother Jayaprakash Lakireddy, 47, and sister-in-law Annapurna Lakireddy, 46, have been charged with conspiring since October 1986 to submit false visa applications to smuggle into the United States at least 50 Indian citizens, including teenage girls used for cheap labor and sex.

The defendants were charged last week in a five-count document known as a ``superseding information,'' which replaces a nine-count indictment filed in February against Reddy and Vijay Lakireddy.

Vijay Lakireddy allegedly helped to smuggle two girls so that his father could have sex with them, authorities said. The girls worked for Reddy and Jayaprakash Lakireddy without minimum wage or overtime, authorities said.

The case came to light after the carbon monoxide-poisoning death last November of pregnant 17-year- old Chanti Prattipati in one of Reddy's apartment complexes.

The defendants and their attorneys declined to comment yesterday after the hearing.

E-mail Henry K. Lee at hlee@sfchronicle.com.
______________

New Charges Filed In Berkeley Sex Case
Five in family accused of smuggling immigrants

<mailto:hlee@sfchronicle.com>Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, October 26, 2000
<http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/#sections>

BERKELEY -- A Berkeley landlord and four relatives were charged yesterday with conspiring for more than a decade to smuggle into the United States at least 50 Indian citizens, including teenage girls who authorities say were used for cheap labor and sex.

The criminal charges mark the culmination of an investigation that began after the carbon monoxide- poisoning death last November of 17-year-old Chanti Prattipati in a Berkeley apartment owned by Lakireddy Bali Reddy, 63, the city's wealthiest landlord.

Reddy, two sons, a brother and a sister-in-law intend to enter guilty pleas next week to some of the charges as part of agreements with the federal government, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Oakland.

The defendants were charged yesterday in a five-count document known as a ``superseding information,'' which replaces a nine-count indictment filed in February against Reddy and his 31-year-old son, Vijay Lakireddy.

Lakireddy was also charged with making false statements in visa applications that said Indian workers would be paid $42,500 a year at his Berkeley company, Active Tech Solutions, when he had no intention to do so.

The document also detailed the charges against three new defendants: Prasad Lakireddy, 42, of Lafayette, another son of Reddy's; Jayaprakash Lakireddy, 47, of Oakland, the landlord's youngest brother; and Annapurna Lakireddy, 46, Jayaprakash Lakireddy's wife.

All five were charged with conspiring since 1986 to illegally bring aliens into the United States from India by submitting false visa applications. Prosecutors said the five arranged for Indian citizens to assume false identities and sponsored ``sham marriages'' to obtain immigration benefits.

Vijay Lakireddy and his attorney, George Cotsirilos of San Francisco, declined to comment after an arraignment yesterday in Oakland before U.S. Magistrate Judge Wayne Brazil. A standard not-guilty plea was entered on Lakireddy's behalf.

Lakireddy, Prasad Lakireddy and Jayaprakash Lakireddy are expected to plead guilty on Monday, and Annapurna Lakireddy is scheduled to enter a guilty plea on Tuesday, court documents show.

Reddy was charged yesterday with two counts of transporting a minor in foreign commerce for illegal sexual activity and one count of making a false statement on a tax return.

Lakireddy was accused of one count of importing an alien for immoral purposes for allegedly helping to smuggle two girls so that his father could have unlawful sex with them, the document said.

Prattipati's 15-year-old sister was also overcome by fumes but survived. She and a third girl, both of whom Reddy allegedly harbored in a Bancroft Way apartment he owned, helped provide details to Berkeley police and federal agents about the alleged conspiracy. The three roommates all worked at Reddy's Pasand restaurant in Berkeley or Jayaprakash Lakireddy's Jay Construction without minimum wage or overtime premiums, prosecutors said.

The five defendants and others are the target of a pending class-action civil suit to be filed on behalf of the teenage girls allegedly victimized in the case, said San Francisco attorney Michael Rubin, who along with the American Civil Liberties Union is representing the girls.

``This is something we have been actively pursuing for quite a few months,'' Rubin said yesterday. ``We're talking about allegations or a complex conspiracy that involves individuals and victims beyond those outlined in the information.''

E-mail Henry K. Lee at hlee@sfchronicle.com.

__________________

Guilty Pleas for Landlord, Relatives
Immigrant girl's death led to federal charges

<mailto:hlee@sfchronicle.com>Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 24, 2000
<http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/#sections>

A Berkeley landlord and four relatives will plead guilty to federal charges stemming from an investigation into the alleged smuggling of teenage girls from India for sex and cheap labor, according to new court documents.

Lakireddy Bali Reddy, 63, and his son, Vijay Lakireddy, 31, intend to enter guilty pleas Monday as part of agreements with the federal government, documents filed in U.S. District Court show.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kennedy, in records filed Thursday, said three previously unnamed defendants are also scheduled to plead guilty next week to criminal charges: Prasad Lakireddy, 42, of Lafayette, another son of Reddy's; Jayaprakash Lakireddy, 47, of Oakland, the landlord's youngest brother; and Annapurna Lakireddy, 46, Jayaprakash Lakireddy's wife.

Kennedy yesterday declined to detail the charges against the new defendants or discuss the impending plea agreements for all five people. People accused of multiple crimes often plead guilty to at least one charge in exchange for the dismissal of other counts.

Reddy, Berkeley's wealthiest landlord, was indicted in February on federal charges that he brought young Indian women to Berkeley for sex and cheap labor. Reddy could also face state charges of statutory rape.

Reddy and Vijay Lakireddy were also indicted on charges of submitting false visa applications that allowed them to import the young women.

The case came to light after two girls who arrived from India in the summer of 1999, 17-year-old Chanti Prattipati and her 15-year-old sister were overcome by carbon monoxide fumes in November in a Bancroft Way apartment, where authorities said Reddy, the owner, had sex with them. Prattipati died accidentally from the gas, and her sister survived.

Kennedy said the other three defendants would not be indicted by a federal grand jury but instead will be accused, as early as Thursday, in a document known as a ``criminal information,'' in which the accused person agrees with the allegations and intends to enter into a plea agreement.

Annapurna Lakireddy declined to discuss the case yesterday, and her husband and Prasad Lakireddy did not return calls seeking comment.

Prasad Lakireddy's attorney, Paul Wolf of Oakland, said, ``There has never been any basis for charges against my client with regard to sex.''

Wolf declined further comment, and other attorneys in the case did not return calls.

A sixth defendant, Venkateswara Vemireddy, 30, allegedly posed as the father of the two sisters and was indicted in March on charges of smuggling them into the United States with the help of Reddy and Vijay Lakireddy. Vemireddy's case is pending.

After Reddy was arrested in January, both Prasad Lakireddy and Jayaprakash Lakireddy wrote letters to the court urging that the landlord be granted bail.

``Mr. Lakireddy is the most kind- hearted person in this world,'' Prasad Lakireddy wrote of his father. ``He has never hurt or refused help to anyone in his life.''

Jayaprakash Lakireddy agreed, saying his brother helped bring him to the United States to help with the landlord's Pasand restaurant and real-estate business in downtown Berkeley.

``I stand behind Mr. Lakireddy in his time of need,'' Jayaprakash Lakireddy wrote, praising his brother's ``generosity and kindness.''

E-mail Henry K. Lee at hlee@sfchronicle.com.

Melanie Orhant
Stop-Traffic Moderator

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