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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. Owner of Queens Medical Employment Agency Indicted for H-1B Visa Fraud Conspiracy

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law




    A federal grand jury has returned an indictment against Rena Beduya Avendula, the owner and managing executive of Professional Placement & Recruitment, Inc. (PPRI) of Woodside, NY, charging her with a visa fraud scheme that brought Filipino citizens into the United States for financial profit. Avendula is charged with five counts of visa fraud and with conspiring to defraud the United States, commit visa fraud and illegally bring undocumented individuals into the United States.

    As alleged in the indictment, Avendula engaged in a scheme from October 2009 to February 2015 to bring Filipino citizens into the United States illegally by fraudulently claiming to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that the foreign nationals would be employed in “specialty occupations,” thereby qualifying for H-1B visas. Avendula used PPRI to further her visa fraud scheme. PPRI specialized in providing nursing care to elderly patients. Avendula, in an effort to secure some of the limited number of H-1B visas that are available each year, falsely stated that foreign nurses would be working in specialized nursing at prevailing wage rates. In fact, they were going to work as licensed practical nurses or RNs at significantly lower rates of pay, mostly at nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. Generally, registered RNs typically do not qualify as beneficiaries for H-1B visas.

    The H-1B nonimmigrant visa classification allows foreign nationals to enter the United States temporarily for the specific purpose of working for the employer in a “specialty occupation.” A “specialty occupation” requires certain specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s or higher-level degree for entry into the occupation within the United States labor market.

    As alleged in the indictment, PPRI sponsored dozens of fraudulent applications and profited from the filing fees she collected from the nurses and from the health care facilities that paid PPRI.

    If convicted, Avendula faces a statutory maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment for the visa fraud charges, and 10 years’ imprisonment for each foreign national she induced to reside in the United States in connection with the visa fraud conspiracy.
  2. Indian Man Sentenced to Prison for Visa Fraud

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law



    Ramesh Venkata Pothuru, a former owner and operator of Virgo Inc. and Isync Solutions, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison following convictions for wire and visa fraud. The sentencing follows an investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

    The investigation disclosed that between 2010 and 2013, Pothuru collected over $450,000 in illegal filing fees and related expenses from more than 100 fraudulent visas and employer-sponsored green cards for nonimmigrant workers from his native India. Pothuru collected these illegal fees and expenses from the employees he sponsored for H-1B visas and green cards through direct payments to his personal bank accounts. He 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.

    Under federal regulations concerning H-1B visas, employers are prohibited from taking 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 U.S. employer.
  3. Business Owner Goes to Jail for Fraudulent H-1B Scheme

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    The owner of two employment staffing companies was sentenced in federal court to 52 months in prison and a $50,000 fine for engaging in a scheme to submit fraudulent H-1B petitions for foreign workers. Previously, Sunitha Guntipally had pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud, obstruction of justice, use of false documents, mail fraud and witness tampering.

    Judge Lucy Koh stated the defendant’s conduct undermines respect for our legal immigration system and does tremendous damage to our institutions and affects the rights of others to immigrate to the United States.

    Guntipally and her husband, who own employment staffing companies DS Soft Tech and Equinett, and two co-conspirators submitted more than 100 fraudulent H-1B petitions to foreign workers to be placed at companies that either did not exist or never received the workers, according to federal prosecutors. The U.S. attorney’s office said the applications were intended to create a pool of H-1B beneficiaries who could then get hired by other companies, thereby unfairly giving Guntipally and her co-conspirators an advantage over other competing employment staffing firms.

    This case is another example of individuals being criminally liable for immigration law violations. For more information about immigration compliance issues, I invite you to read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, which I co-authored and is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  4. Attorney and Spouse Sentenced to 2 Years Probation for Visa Fraud

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    After pleading guilty to fraud in relation to H-1B visas, New York immigration lawyer Loreto Kudera, and his wife, Hazel Kudera, the owner of several medical staffing agencies, were sentenced to two years probation and fined $25,000 each. Previously, they had forfeited $1 million.

    Hazel Kudera owned multiple staffing agencies in New York that specialized in providing nurses to hospitals, outpatient and skilled nursing facilities. According to the government, Hazel and Loreto Kudera submitted at least 100 fraudulent applications to authorities, and profited from filing fees collected from the nurses and from the health care facilities that paid Hazel Kudera’s staffing agencies.

    Hazel and Loreto Kudera falsely stated that the foreign nurses would be working in specialty occupations at prevailing wage rates when in actuality they were going to work as licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or registered nurses (RNs) at much lower rates of pay.

    As part of the alleged scam, Hazel Kudera falsified a staffing agreement between NYC Healthcare Staffing and Dewitt Rehabilitation listing job positions that did not exist, such as clinical coordinator and health care quality assurance manager, in order to cover up the false job titles she provided to USICS.
  5. President of Company Charged with H-1B Visa Fraud

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    Raina Massey, the head of Newark-based Care Worldwide Inc., has been charged with wire fraud, visa fraud and identity theft after she allegedly conducted a multifaceted illegal immigration scheme from February 2012 to March 2015. Massey has pled not guilty to the charges.

    Massey sought foreign individuals to allegedly work on H-1B visas in clinical research jobs for Care Worldwide, however, the company was just a shell operation, and the jobs advertised by Massey didn't exist.

    Several sets of victims were purportedly impacted by the scheme. One group of victims allegedly took part in "benching," in which Massey falsely indicated the victims would have technical positions waiting for them. Due to “technical problems”, Massey assigned them to menial tasks, such as handing out fliers on street corners. For other victims, Massey never applied for H-1B visas but still took illegal payments from them.

    Each wire fraud count has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, while the visa fraud count has a top penalty of 10 years. Massey’s arrest comes after an Administrative Law Judge for the U.S. Department of Labor ordered Care Worldwide to pay $291,708 to two H-1B employees after finding that the company and its president “benched” both of the workers.
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