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Visa Switcheroo

United States VISA in a european passport with stamps.
Senior Director of Strategic Alliances
LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

The owner of a North Dakota firm that purported to help employers find employees under temporary visa programs pleaded guilty to immigration fraud in November 2019. Catherina Knecht (also known as Catherina Rheeder), owner of Liberty Immigrations & Visas, fraudulently obtained visas for foreign workers for certain employers without the companies’ knowledge. She then placed the workers with another employer that was not authorized to hire them under the temporary visa programs.

“Catherina Knecht misused the H-2A program in order to enrich herself at the expense of foreign workers and American employers,” noted Irene Lindow, Special Agent-in-Charge, Chicago Region, for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General. As part of her scheme, Knecht made false statements in applications to the U.S. Department of Labor and in petitions to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. By submitting those applications by U.S. mail, Hecht also committed mail fraud. (May as well go all in, right?) Finally, she placed workers who were not authorized to work in the U.S. with unsuspecting employers, requiring them to pay her directly, while claiming that the workers’ visa authorizations were in process.

Knect’s North Dakota immigration fraud case was investigated by the Document Benefits Fraud Task Force (DBFTF), with participation of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations Document Benefit Fraud Task Force, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, and U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. The investigation led to an indictment for False Statement, False Swearing in an Immigration Matter, and Mail Fraud.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a news release from the United States Attorney’s Office, District of North Dakota, “Cleveland, ND, Woman Pleads Guilty to Visa and Mail Fraud,” published Nov. 14, 2019.

FARGO – United States Attorney Drew H. Wrigley, District of North Dakota, announced that on November 14, 2019, Catherina Knecht, a/k/a Catherina Rheeder, age 43, formerly from Cleveland, ND, now residing in Williston, ND, pleaded guilty before Chief Judge Peter D. Welte, U.S. District Court, Fargo, ND, to an Indictment charging her with False Statement, False Swearing in an Immigration Matter, and Mail Fraud.

Knecht ran a business, Liberty Immigration & Visas, from her home in Cleveland, ND. Liberty Immigration aided employers seeking to obtain temporary workers under the H-2A (temporary agricultural) and H-2B (temporary nonagricultural) visa programs. An investigation by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division uncovered evidence of Knecht engaging in visa fraud. The Document Benefits Fraud Task Force in Minneapolis, MN, conducted a criminal investigation. They found evidence of fraud throughout Knecht’s visa work. This fraud included fraudulently securing H-2A status for foreign workers under the approved H-2A petitions of certain employers without the knowledge of those employers. Knecht then placed those H-2A workers with a different employer who was not authorized to employ H-2A workers. In the course of doing so, Knecht made materially false statements in both applications to Department of Labor (DOL) and in petitions to US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Knecht committed mail fraud by submitting those applications via the mail. Knecht also placed foreign workers without authorization to work in the United States with employers and required the employers to pay her directly, telling those employers the workers’ visa paperwork was in progress.

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