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  1. Soccer Camp Settles H-1B Case for $185,000

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) approved a settlement between the DOL and Ashley Soccer Camp for $185,000 in a complaint involving coaches hired under the H-1B program. $175,000 was for backpay and $10,000 for civil penalties.

    Ashley Soccer Camp hired 12 soccer coaches under the H-1B program and promised to pay them between $18,000 to $55,000 each year, according to DOL. However, after the coaches came to the United States, the company reneged on these promises, giving some of its employees less than 50% of what was promised.

    This led the soccer coaches to file a complaint with DOL. Thereafter, DOL found the complaint to be meritorious and set the case for a hearing. Before the hearing began, the parties reached this settlement.
  2. Company and Owner Sentenced for Knowingly Hiring Unauthorized Workers

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    A Washington company, DJ Drywall, Inc., and its owner, David L. Jones, were sentenced in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Washington for repeated violations of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. Previously, in February 2016, DJ Drywall and David Jones pleaded guilty to knowingly encouraging and inducing a Mexican national to reside in the United States in violation of law. The guilty plea followed two civil penalties imposed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding the company’s practice of illegally hiring undocumented workers.

    In both 2008 and 2011, DJ Drywall was audited by ICE and paid fines of $32,316 and $27,405, respectively, for violating immigration law, including the hiring of 21 known undocumented workers. Additionally, in 2013, ICE found a pattern of DJ Drywall hiring unauthorized workers and paying them ‘off the books,’ or encouraging them to submit false I-9 documents.

    Under the terms of the plea agreement, David Jones forfeited $25,000 to the United States and received two years of probation. The company will be on probation for five years and will pay a $75,000 fine. While on probation, DJ Drywall will be required to verify the work authorization of all newly hired employees through the E-Verify system.
  3. OSC Settles with Villa Rancho Bernardo Care Center concerning Immigration Discriminat

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    The Office of Special Counsel for Immigrated-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), a division of the Justice Department, reached a settlement agreement with Villa Rancho Bernardo Care Center (VRB), a skilled nursing facility in San Diego, resolving a claim of discrimination against work authorized non-U.S. citizens in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

    The OSC’s investigation found VRB discriminated against lawful permanent residents (green card holders) by requiring them to produce specific documents to prove their work authorization, while permitting U.S. citizens to show any valid work authorization documentation they chose. Specifically, during the interview and hiring processes, VRB requested that lawful permanent residents produce a permanent resident card. Lawful permanent residents are not required to show employers their permanent resident cards to work. Rather, like all other work-authorized employees, they can present their choice of valid documentation from the USCIS’s Lists of Acceptable Documents to establish their identity and work authorization. For example, lawful permanent residents can establish their work authorization by presenting a state or federal identification document and an unrestricted Social Security card.

    Under the settlement agreement, VRB will pay $24,000 in civil penalties to the United States, undergo OSC-provided webinar training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA and be subject to monitoring requirements by the OSC for a period of one year.

    Updated 06-02-2016 at 11:56 AM by BBuchanan

  4. Four Charged in H-1B Visa Fraud Scheme

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    The Justice Department (DOJ) has charged four individuals with conspiring to submit more than 100 fake H-1B visa applications, a scheme aimed at creating a pool of workers to compete with U.S. staffing firms. The indictment alleges Venkat and Sunitha Guntipally, Pratap “Bob” Kondamoori and Sandhya Ramireddi used “deceit, craft, trickery, and dishonest means” in a scheme aimed at placing H-1B workers at temporary positions with companies that differed from the end-companies listed on the visa petitions. The charges are for the conspiracy visa fraud, false statements, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering, as well as the use of false documents and aiding and abetting the scheme. The maximum prison term for visa fraud is 10 years, while mail fraud and witness tampering both hold a maximum penalty of 20 years, according to the DOJ.

    Between 2010 and 2014, DOJ said Venkat and Sunitha Guntipally used their employment-staffing companies DS Soft Tech and Equinett to sponsor temporary nonimmigrant workers for fraudulent H-1B applications for placements at companies that either didn’t exist or never received the proposed temporary workers, submitting fake documents to government agencies.

    According to DOJ, DS Soft Tech and Equinett submitted approximately 22 separate petitions for H-1B workers to be placed at a company operated by Kondamoori called SemSolar Inc., and work on a product the defendants allegedly knew didn’t exist. None of those workers who received the temporary visas through the scheme ever worked at SemSolar.

    DOJ also alleges Kondamoori used his company SISL Networks to petition for fake visas with his sister Ramireddi acting as the human resources and operations manager all three companies.

    The Guntipallys, Kondamoori and Ramireddi are also facing charges for allegedly concealing and covering up the visa-scheme from the government through false statements to the DHS and other agencies, as well as tampering with witnesses by allegedly contacting multiple individuals who had received the fake visas and persuading them to give misleading statements to criminal investigators, the indictment said.
  5. OCAHO Refuses to Allow ICE Officials to Give Depositions

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    In U.S. v. Frimmel Management, LLC d/b/a Uncle Sam’s, 12 OCAHO no. 1271 and 1271a (2016), the Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) faced a discovery dispute. Specifically, whether the company can take the depositions of five Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials after the company was served with a Notice of Inspection. ICE filed a Motion to Quash four of the depositions on the grounds that two were not involved in this case except to sign their names to various ICE documents; one is not identified as who the individual is nor if he or she even works for ICE; and the last deposition because he is a Maricopa County Sherriff’s Office detective, who had no involvement in the ICE audit. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) of OCAHO granted the Motion, which was upheld by the Chief Administrative Law Judge of OCAHO. They also denied the company’s argument where it argued for the suppression of the company’s identity under the 4th Amendment suppression rule.

    This case demonstrates the difficulty companies face in determining the underlying facts of an ICE investigation. However, in this case, it appears the proposed deposed individuals did not have any pertinent information; thus, the depositions were quashed.
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