H1B visa issue not quiet in US, Trump team cracking the whip on fraud and abuse

The US Department of Labor (DoL) is doubling down on H1B fraud and abuse, going all out to showcase wrongdoers prominently in its outreach to both US citizens and the Trump administration.

The Office of the Inspector General of the US DoL lists details of various cases of recent H1B related fraud ranging from falsifying job titles and duties, cooking up vital information, rerouting cash for personal gain at the cost of hired staff and other smokescreens.

Link: Your guide to H1B visas on Planet Trump, a Firstpost special

Although Indian Prime Minister Modi and US President Donald Trump did not discuss H1B visas or the specifics of the current backlash in the US, that does not mean it’s all quiet on the US side. The crackdown to plug loopholes in the H1B system is relentless. Alexander Acosta, the US Secretary of Labour recently appointed by Donald Trump, is going all out to explicitly highlight DoL’s wins against H1B users who cross the line.

 H1B visa issue not quiet in US, Trump team cracking the whip on fraud and abuse

Modi and Trump did not discuss H1B, that does not mean the backlash has ebbed/ AP

Acosta has put out a longlist of H1B con artists who have been reined in over the last few months either with fines, jail terms or both.

Among them are Sunila Dutt, 39, of Ashburn, Virginia, Loreto Kudera, age 45, and Hazel Kudera, age 43, a married couple from New York, George Mariadas Kurusu, a 58-year-old Indian national, Hiral Patel, 34, of Jersey City, New Jersey, Phani Raju Bhima Raju  and Rohit Saksena, president and chief executive officer of Saks IT Group, LLC, an information technology (IT) staffing and consulting services provider in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Below are summaries of the H1B fraud by the above named people in the US, as listed by the investigative wing of the DoL:

"Sunila Dutt, a Virginia attorney, Hiral Patel, and Hari Karne, employees of IT staffing and consulting companies SCM Data (SCM) and MMC Systems (MMC), pled guilty on October 17, 2016, December 16, 2016, and February 14, 2017 respectively, to charges that they engaged an H-1B visa fraud conspiracy and then obstructed justice in an effort to cover up their wrongdoing."

"On April 26, 2017, George Mariadas Kurusu, an Indian national, was sentenced to 11 months of confinement for his previous guilty plea to wire fraud, fraud in foreign labor contracting, false statements in an immigration matter, and witness tampering related to a scheme to defraud the H-1B visa program. Prior to his sentencing, Kurusu agreed to pay more than $53,000 in restitution to four victims of his scheme."

"On May 1, 2017, Rohit Saksena pled guilty to false statements charges relating to his role in a scheme to defraud the DOL H-1B program.
Saksena was the president and chief executive officer of Saks IT Group, LLC, an information technology (IT) staffing and consulting services provider in Manchester, New Hampshire. Saksena submitted immigration documents to DOL and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) falsely stating that foreign workers would provide professional services to Keytone Technologies Inc. (Keytone), an IT company in Cupertino, California, when Saksena knew Saks IT Group had no contractual relationship with Keytone and never intended to place foreign workers at Keytone as he had asserted to the government. In addition, the investigation found that Saksena and a co-conspirator attempted to conceal their scheme by directing others to provide false information to immigration officials."

"On January 31, 2017, husband and wife Loreto and Hazel Kudera, a health care company owner and immigration attorney, respectively, were each sentenced to 24 months of probation and ordered to pay $1 million in forfeiture as a result of their convictions for conspiring to defraud DOL’s H-1B visa program. Hazel Kudera was the owner and operator of NYC Healthcare Staffing and LHK Consulting, companies through which she and her husband facilitated the fraud scheme. As a result of his conviction, the State of New York barred Loreto Kudera from practicing law effective May 4, 2017."

"Phani Raju Bhima Raju, president of iFuturistics, was sentenced on March 20, 2014, to four years in prison for his participation in a scheme to obtain fraudulent H-1B visas for foreign workers. Raju was also ordered to forfeit $1.5 million in criminal proceeds."

It's very clear what the Trump administration is trying to achieve here - compliance and enforcement of employment-based immigration processes . Immigration attorneys are in turn reminding H1B shops and companies that employ foreign nationals not to test the boundaries of US laws.

With both sides fully aware of all the issues at stake - including the push for salary caps from US lawmakers and criticism of the lottery system, neither Modi nor Trump mentioned H1B during their spotlight moments in the White House Rose Garden.

H1B went eerily quiet during the Modi-Trump weekend. That was in line with the overall Indian line of thinking - both among think tanks and MEA officials - that bringing it up may lead to a harsher outcome. Also, from the US side, answers to every manner of H1B questions were ready if the issue did come up - “The issue is under review, President Trump’s stand on it is clear in the Executive Order he signed in April”.

The reality is far from such euphemism. Although the official line is that "nothing's changed", the H1B is getting beaten into shape, a reboot is a foregone conclusion. Unofficially, it's already happened.

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Updated Date: Jul 06, 2017 04:30:06 IST