US: Indian-origin man sentenced to prison for wire, visa fraud
An Indian-origin man has been sentenced to prison in the US after being convicted of wire and visa fraud; he collected over $450,000 in illegal filing fees for H-1B visas and green cards for Indian workers. Ramesh Venkata Pothuru, a former owner-operator of Virgo Inc. and Isync Solutions, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
44-year-old Pothuru's sentencing follows a joint investigation by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF). He collected illegal filing fees and related expenses from over 100 fraudulent visas and employer-sponsored green cards for nonimmigrant workers from his India.
The investigation disclosed that between 2010 and 2013, Pothuru collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in filing fees from workers he was sponsoring under the H-1B nonimmigrant worker visa program. Federal regulations prohibit employers from soliciting payments from H-1B non-immigrant workers to cover the costs associated with filing fees, which fees are required by law to be borne by the sponsoring US employer.
Many of the H-1B non-immigrant workers were recipients of employer-sponsored permanent foreign labor certification applications filed by Pothuru with the Department of Labor. Permanent foreign labor certification filings involve costs of several thousand dollars in addition to the filing fees. Pothuru unlawfully collected both illegal fees and expenses from employees he sponsored for H-1B visas and green cards through direct-payments to his bank accounts.
After illegally receiving fees/expenses from employees, Pothuru subsequently submitted false applications in which he did not identify the fees that he collected from the non-immigrant workers and swore that he did not collect, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement.