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January 22, 2000
Silicon Valley landlord is considered 'Flight Risk'
R S Shankar
Prosecutors convinced a judge on Friday that Lakireddy Bali Reddy, charged with running a prostitution ring, is a flight risk. They believe Reddy could jump bail and flee to India, even though he has extensive businesses in America and also has family members living with him.
Judge Wayne D Brazil rejected an offer by Ted Cassman, Reddy's lawyer, who had earlier called the charges against his client "salacious," to put up as bail an apartment complex worth between $ 2 million and $ 3 million.
According to prosecutors, Reddy, who also owns a restaurant and property in Silicon Valley, is the biggest landlord in Berkeley and is worth over $ 50 million.
Another bail hearing is set for early next week.
"It would be a high bail, but I think I can fashion a bail that might be workable," Judge Brazil said.
Reddy, 62, who came to America several decades ago for graduate studies and went into the real estate business, is accused of smuggling teenage girls from India for sex. Immigration authorities are also investigating charges that he brought unskilled laborers in India under a visa meant for professionals.
Sitha Vamireddy, one of the three girls Reddy allegedly shared an apartment with in Berkeley, died of carbon monoxide leak on Thanksgiving Day in November. She was 17. Her 15-year-old sister, who was found unconscious in the same apartment, was discharged from hospital the next day. She has reportedly told the police in detail about sexual liaisons involving Reddy. A third girl, who lived with her, has also confided in investigators, according to court documents.
In a related development, Senator Dianne Feinstein, responding to the fear of Indian community leaders that the girls who collaborated with the police could be deported to India and would face a life of ignominy, has said she wants to help the young girls.
She said she would soon introduce legislation to protect immigrants who testify in criminal exploitation cases from being deported.
Reddy, who was arrested on January 14, is charged with one count each of importing 'aliens for the purpose of prostitution and for other immoral purposes,' and encouraging and inducing people to illegally 'enter and reside in the United States,' according to his arrest warrant filed in federal court in Oakland.
Many people in the community are waiting to hear what evidence the authorities have against Reddy.
Many Indians said they could not understand the allegations made in the court records that Reddy had 'set up an elaborate scheme to bring in illegal immigrants from India.'
"This man is 62, and he is a millionaire fifty or sixty times over," said an Indian student. "Why was he planning to smuggle people?"
City officials said when the tragedy occurred, Reddy and his family members helped the police as interpreters. Meanwhile, the police and immigration authorities had been getting anonymous complaints against Reddy. Some of the complaints came from Reddy's allegedly disgruntled employees. These complaints led to a thorough investigation into Reddy's dealings.
Berkeley City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque told the court during the bail hearing that Reddy and his family members "impeded the investigation by not revealing the true identities of the victims."
"They were continuing to maintain the subterfuge of the purported relationship between the girls and their parents," she said. The "parents" of the two girls lived in a nearby apartment.
Earlier reports, quoting the authorities, said that Sitha's "father" had lied about his "wife's" identity. Now the authorities believe that the man is not the father, and his "wife" is actually his sister.
Only when independent interpreters were used was the truth revealed, government officials said.
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