Fraudsters Need Not Apply

20067797 - w2 tax form and social security cards

With the assistance of four co-conspirators, a married couple from India thought they could scam the government by applying for more than $20 million in illegal immigration benefits under the H-1B visa program, but their plan was exposed and now they are looking at a possible three decades behind bars (big crimes=big times).

The purpose of the H-1B visa program is to allow workers from other countries to temporarily enter the United States to work in a position that employers are unable to fill with qualified personnel already within the country. Instead of helping qualified workers come to the United States to work, the couple built a staffing business that was technically a ”visa-for-sale” system. (A big no-no. The government has strict rules and regulations that must be followed in order to obtain and maintain a work visa. You can’t just simply buy your way in.)

By setting up a number of shell companies, the man informed immigration officers that he had multiple businesses in need of Indian workers. He and his co-conspirators used these companies to request foreign workers to fill job vacancies that did not exist. (In all, the group of fraudsters applied for more than 900 illegal immigration benefits under the H-1B visa program.)

Federal law requires employers to pay for the foreign workers’ visa processing fees; however, the fraudster in this case required his employees to pay for it. He also paid his workers as hourly contractors instead of salaried employees, another violation of the program. In addition, the mastermind forged signatures on visa applications without his victims’ knowledge or consent.

As if that was not enough, the husband and wife fraud team also defrauded the Small Business Administration (SBA) by trying to obtain HUBZone certification for one of their businesses located in a rural and underutilized area of Virginia by submitting fake program applications. (HUBZone qualification means that the business would receive preferential treatment regarding federal procurement opportunities.) A Department of Justice press release noted that the couple, along with a consultant, purposely hid the true location, ownership and employees of the Virginia company in order to acquire federal loans and contracts. (The press release states that they were able to obtain five contracts.)

The 44-year-old husband and his 45-year-old wife pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States plus visa fraud. The husband agreed to forfeit $20,900,000 from the proceeds of his fraud scheme. They are each looking at 30 years in prison based on charges for conspiracy to commit visa fraud, aggravated identity theft, international money laundering, conspiracy to make false statements to the SBA, making false statements to the SBA, and the unlawful procurement of naturalization. The other four co-conspirators face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, if convicted.

The numerous federal, state and local agencies involved in the investigation of this fraud should be congratulated for ending this massive misuse of a program that’s designed to boost, not buy, our economy.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on a press release, ”Couple Pleads Guilty to $20 Million Visa Fraud Involving Indian Workers,” released by the Department of Justice on August 25, 2016.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Raju Kosuri, 44, and Smriti Jharia, 45, a married couple from Ashburn, pleaded guilty today to charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and visa fraud, among other charges.

Kosuri and Jharia were indicted on April 27. According to the statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Kosuri, Jharia, and their co-conspirators fraudulently applied for more than 900 illegal immigration benefits under the H-1B visa program. Since 2008, and at much greater scale since 2011, Kosuri has built a staffing business that amounts to a visa-for-sale system, in violation of federal law. Kosuri and Jharia also admitted to defrauding the Small Business Administration in connection with a scheme to obtain HUBZone certification for a business named EcomNets Federal Solutions. Kosuri agreed to forfeit proceeds of his fraud schemes in the amount of $20,900,000.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.