Suspected H-1B visa fraud leads to arrest of two Indian-Americans

Two Indian-Americans were arrested on 13 May, 2015 on suspicion of H-1B visa fraud. The arrests took place in New Jersey following a federal complaint claiming that they had been hiring foreign workers, mainly from India, without the skills and qualifications usually required for H-1B workers.

32-year-old, Hiral Patel, and 31-year-old, Shikha Mohta, employees of SCM Data Incorporated and MMC Systems Incorporated, face charges of conspiracy to bring in and "harbour aliens" and to pervert the course of justice.

Five years in prison for immigration fraud

The charges brought against the two men, who are both residents of Jersey City, carries a maximum five year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine. The federal complaint lodged against the pair claims that they, along with their co-conspirators, hired foreign workers from India without the required IT experience for the positions to work in the US.

The pair then sponsored the H-1B visas of overseas workers with the intention of having them work for the clients of SCM Data and MMC Systems across the United States. They claimed that the workers would be working full-time in the US for the prevailing wage as required for an H-1B visa.

Having hired workers on H-1B visas for IT jobs, the pair falsified documents sent to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), stating that the foreign workers had full-time jobs with full-time salaries. However, apparently the employees were not paid the required full-time salary. Under the H-1B visa program it is especially important to pay the salary as stated in the original H-1B visa application.

Federal complaint

However, the information submitted was a deliberate misrepresentation of the true situation and was in violation of the requirements of the H-1B visa programme, according to the federal complaint. It's alleged that Mohta and Patel only paid the overseas workers when they were assigned to a third-party client who was contracted to SCM Data or MMC Systems. This was less than the prevailing wage as required under the H-1B visa program.

The federal complaint also alleges that, in some cases, Mohta, Patel and numerous co-conspirators had falsified payroll records to show that the foreign workers they were hiring received the prevailing wage.

An excerpt from the complaint said: "On numerous occasions the conspirators required workers to pay SCM Data or MMC Systems their gross wages in cash. In exchange, SCM Data and MMC Systems would subtract taxes and fees and issue payroll checks to the foreign workers in a smaller amount."

Initial court appearances

Following their arrests, Patel and Mohta made an initial court appearance where prosecutors said: "Your scheme provided you, and others, with a labour pool of inexpensive, skilled foreign workers who could be used on an 'as needed' basis.

It was profitable because it required minimal overheads and SCM Data and MMC Systems could charge significant hourly rates for the foreign workers' services."

The case against the two men continues.