Visa fraud rarely prosecuted


Companies and public agencies were fined tens of millions of dollars in recent years for running afoul of federal work visa rules, but such violations rarely have resulted in criminal charges, an I-Team investigation found.

The U.S. Department of Labor typically investigates H-1B visa fraud and deems companies and agencies to be “willful violators” if they don’t follow program rules. This doesn’t bar them from getting H-1B visas but requires additional steps over the next five years.

Currently in Ohio, three Columbus companies — including two IT consulting or software firms — are listed as willful violators. All three were found to not be paying foreign workers required wages.

Since 2005, the Labor Department has listed 64 companies and agencies in Ohio as willful violators, including Cleveland State University, the University of Toledo and Dayton Public Schools. Again, all three were found to not be paying required wages.

The Dayton case began in 2004 when a pair of district human resource managers filed paperwork to bring over eight teachers from the Philippines in exchange for $8,100 from the teachers, even though there were no jobs for them. The school district was found at least partially responsible and had to pay $89,480 in back wages.

Criminal prosecutions from H-1B work visa fraud are far less common, but they do occur. In May, two employees of New Jersey IT companies were charged with using the H-1B program to harbor illegal aliens.

Court documents allege the men recruited foreign nationals, often student visa-holders or recent college graduates, and sponsored them for visas. But instead of paying them as the visa requires, they paid them only when they had work with third-party clients and hid that fact with bogus payroll checks, investigators claimed.

“This scheme provided (the suspects) with a labor pool of inexpensive, skilled foreign workers who could be used on an “as needed” basis, according to a news release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “The scheme was profitable because it required minimal overhead, and SCM Data and MMC Systems could charge significant hourly rates for the foreign workers’ services.”

In 2013, a California man was charged with visa fraud for allegedly claiming on immigration forms that 19 Indian workers had job offers with American employers when they did not.

Work visa fraud carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Other companies have paid huge settlements on fraud claims. The largest ever involved the Indian company Infosys, which in 2013 agreed to pay $34 million to the federal government to settle allegations of visa fraud and abuse of immigration processes.

Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at Howard University who specializes in immigration policy, believes misuse of the H-1B visa program is a widespread problem, but he is not surprised there are few criminal charges.

“The law has so many loopholes that it’s fairly easy to exploit they system without breaking the law,” he said.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Missing juvenile last seen in Franklin, has friends in Dayton area
Missing juvenile last seen in Franklin, has friends in Dayton area

A 16-year-old girl last seen in Franklin on Sunday is missing, according to Franklin police. Chelsea Lamb-Stephenson recently moved to Williams, Ind., but was visiting friends with her mother in Franklin when she went missing. She used to live in Mason and reportedly has friends in the areas of Dayton and Fairborn. Chelsea is 5’2”, 224...
Washington Twp. woman helping cancer patients with ‘Comfee Caps’
Washington Twp. woman helping cancer patients with ‘Comfee Caps’

When two of her closest friends were battling cancer eight years ago, Washington Township resident, Sue Forrest, decided to provide comfort to them in a very unique way. Little did she know that it turned into a much larger labor of love. MORE: Regional center now dispatching calls for Washington Twp. Forrest wanted to help her friends, who were undergoing...
Xenia High School employee on leave; sexual battery investigation underway
Xenia High School employee on leave; sexual battery investigation underway

A Xenia Community Schools employee is on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. The staff member, who works at the high school, was placed on leave Friday, said Wendy Planicka, spokeswoman for Xenia schools. A Xenia police report involving alleged sexual battery was obtained by this news organization following a public records request...
TODAY: Dayton school board may prohibit teachers, staff from ‘crowdfunding’
TODAY: Dayton school board may prohibit teachers, staff from ‘crowdfunding’

Dayton’s school board meets at 5 p.m. today with one unusual item on the agenda — a policy change prohibiting school employees from launching crowdfunding campaigns on behalf of Dayton Public Schools or any individual DPS school. Crowdfunding is described by Merriam-Webster as “the practice of obtaining needed funding (as for a new...
National Cheeseburger Day: We tried a new veggie option at Five Guys and were happily surprised 
National Cheeseburger Day: We tried a new veggie option at Five Guys and were happily surprised 

Today is National Cheeseburger Day and we understand that not everyone is going to want to participate in this meaty day of celebration.  There’s a non-beef, veggie option unveiled at Five Guys earlier this year that is a great alternative for anyone going out to dinner tonight with their patty-loving companions.  The Veggie Sandwich...
More Stories