Monthly Archives: May 2011

What Happened to the H-1B Employees Charged with IT Employer as Visa Fraud Conspirators?

[re-posted from H-1B Legal Rights blog, authored by attorneys Vonda Vandaveer and Michael Brown]

The H-1B employees who were originally indicted as co-conspirators in connection with Vision Systems work visa fraud scheme have either plead guilty to reduced charges or had charges dismissed last year.  Apparently, these results were in exchange for the H-1B workers cooperating with the investigation and prosecution of their employer.

Most of those who plead guilty did so to a single misdemeanor charge of failing to file a change of address when they moved to a new work location, a USCIS requirement. They were fined $200, according to public records filed in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa. One employee plead guilty to three counts of failing to change his address and was fined $600, but had no condition he cooperate with prosecutors.  Another had his charges dismissed entirely, apparently because he agreed to serve as a witness at trial, according to court records.

The eight employees were arrested in 2009 along with their employers on felony charges related to the submission of H-1B and immigrant visa petitions for jobs in Iowa that did not exist. Vision Systems, headquartered in New Jersey, was accused of setting up a shell company called Venturisoft in Iowa, where prevailing wages for tech jobs are lower than in other parts of the country, such as California. Instead of working in Iowa, the H-1B employees allegedly were farmed out to companies throughout the United States without notifying USCIS.

Such practices violate Department of Labor and USCIS regulations and are common among unscrupulous H-1B employers commonly referred to as “body shops.” These body shops lure H-1B employees with the promise of well-paying tech jobs in the United States. When an employee arrives, however, he finds no job exists and he won’t be paid. Instead, he is told to go out and get himself placed with a third-party company and only then would he be paid. If he is not working, he is benched without pay, in violation of the law. The employee often is afraid to confront the employer about the unlawful activity, fearing for his immigration status.

When the government filed criminal charges last year against Vision Systems and its owners, the fact that the H-1B employees were also indicted sent a chill through much of the H-1B worker community. That prosecutors did not pursue the felony conspiracy charges and instead used them as leverage to gain the employees’ cooperation, should serve as some relief to other H-1B workers who are now or have been victims of such unlawful employer practices that jeopardizes immigration status.

(In the authors’ experience, most H-1B workers we’ve encountered do not join or conspire with their employers to participate in unlawful activities: if you are concerned about your own H-1B employer and actions it wants you to do, you should consider a confidential assessment of your situation by an attorney).

The Vision Systems indictments were one of the early cases testing whether criminal charges would stick against employers who violate H-1B regulations. Although federal prosecutors settled last year for guilty pleas from the two Vision Systems owners to reduced charges with no imprisonment, the case still resulted in a criminal conviction. With a successful test run under their belt, prosecutors have since pursued additional employers and obtained convictions with imprisonment. See our blog article on several recent convictions here. If you have been benched, underpaid, or promised a job that didn’t exist, you should consider contacting an attorney to examine potential relief (e.g. payment of wages owed, help with a lawful H-1B transfer) for that situation, and to ensure you are compliant with the law when you take action to improve your situation.

For more information about the legal services we provide to H-1B workers, please see our blog page here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Vision Systems Owners Plead Guilty To H-1B Related Fraud Charge

The H-1B Legal Rights Blog posted an article in February 2009 about the two owners of the now defunct IT services firm Vision Systems. The owners pleaded guilty to mail fraud in connection with submitting a fraudulent H-1B petition, and they were sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay $236,250 in restitution to USCIS.

Vision Systems and its owners Viswa Mohan Mandalapu Chandra Mohan Rao Mandalapu, who are brothers, originally were indicted on multiple counts related to H-1B and green card fraud and the government had sought $7.4 million in assets to be forfeited.

The men are accused of filing H-1B petitions for workers through a shell company called Venturisoft in Iowa, although no jobs existed there. Rather, the H-1B employees were sent to other states to work. Iowa has a lower prevailing wage than such states as California, Texas and Boston.

In October 2010, the men negotiated a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, avoiding the maximum penalties, which includes imprisonment.

A copy of the plea agreement is available here.

Check the H-1B Legal Rights blog regularly to track the latest on criminal prosecutions against employers for H-1B and work visa fraud.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Are You a Worker Considering a Legal Claim? Consider The Value of Witnesses

House Fly on Wall
Image via Wikipedia

If you are a worker reading this blog, it may be because you are considering (or already pursuing) a legal action.

Often, a worker pursues a legal action based only on his or own knowledge, and without additional proof, i.e. without evidence such as documents or witness statements.

This post focuses on the importance of witnesses — i.e. flies-on-the-wall who are independent from you, and who observed actions or statements that would support your legal claims.

Witnesses who observed facts that are important for you, and who are willing to step up to the plate and testify and/or sign a statement about those facts, could help a worker’s case a great deal.

Before beginning or continuing a legal case, here are some things a worker should consider about witnesses:

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Pursuing Unpaid Wages? Get Your Ducks in a Row

get your ducks in a row!

Image by debaird™ via Flickr

If you’re a worker who believes you’re owed unpaid wages, there are a few pressing things to consider upfront, such as: (1) learning legal deadlines that may apply; and (2) promptly organizing information and documents that describe the unpaid wage issues, i.e. getting your ducks in a row.

When a worker with unpaid wages contacts me about potentially representing him or her– and when that worker has already prepared and organized documentation, such as spreadsheet summaries of estimated hours and wages, pay stubs in chronological order, policies applying to hours and wages, etc.– this makes everything more efficient.

I can more efficiently evaluate potential claims and options, and if legal action is pursued, that can usually occur more promptly, efficiently and effectively as well.

If your ducks are in a row, you’re more likely to hit the ground running. Okay, I’ll stop with the cliches.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under Employee Tip - H-1B, Employee Tips - Unpaid Wages

DOL-Timesheet for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the iTunes App Store

Media_httpa3mzstaticc_gdagd

The U.S. Department of Labor recently created a smartphone-application (“app”), posted at this website, for workers to use to track their work hours and verify correct wages are being paid by their employers.

The app, which is free, allows workers to keep their own work-hour records, as there are often situations where their employers’ records of hours differ. For example, some employers fail to record or pay workers for hours the employer deems non-compensable time. In some cases employers exclude time their employees spend on work phone calls or work emails at home, or the employer makes deductions for designated break times or travel times for which work was actually performed and payable under wage laws.

In short, in some instances employers’ time records and wage payments are wrong, and employees are entitled more wages (including overtime) based on wage laws and the employee’s more complete records. This app helps workers become more mindful and accurate if such issues arise.

The app is currently available for iPhone and iPod Touch (with more smartphone platforms possibly to be added later), in English and Spanish.

Leave a comment

Filed under Employee Tips - Unpaid Wages

DOL-Timesheet for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the iTunes App Store

Media_httpa3mzstaticc_gdagd

The U.S. Department of Labor recently created a smartphone-application (“app”), posted at this website, for workers to use to track their work hours and verify correct wages are being paid by their employers.

The app, which is free, allows workers to keep their own work-hour records, as there are often situations where their employers’ records of hours differ. For example, some employers fail to record or pay workers for hours the employer deems non-compensable time. In some cases employers exclude time their employees spend on work phone calls or work emails at home, or the employer makes deductions for designated break times or travel times for which work was actually performed and payable under wage laws.

In short, in some instances employers’ time records and wage payments are wrong, and employees are entitled more wages (including overtime) based on wage laws and the employee’s more complete records. This app helps workers become more mindful and accurate if such issues arise.

The app is currently available for iPhone and iPod Touch (with more smartphone platforms possibly to be added later), in English and Spanish.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Former White House lawyer talks of ill-trodden steps and reinforces integrity | State Bar of Wisconsin

I recently attended a Wisconsin State Bar seminar, where speaker Egil “Bud” Krogh spoke of his experience as a former Nixon administration attorney, and his admitted involvement in illegal decisions. As noted in a WI Bar article:

Krogh authorized a covert operation to burglarize the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist to find information that would discredit Ellsberg. After his indictment, Krogh pled guilty to conspiracy to deprive individuals of Fourth Amendment rights under 18 U.S.C. 241. He refused to assert national security for a defense.

I found this evolution of facts concerning Mr. Krogh– and, at the Bar seminar, his humbled and detailed discussion of his mistakes, and namely his admitting responsibility for them– very impressive. Here’s a link to a WI Bar video interview of Mr. Krogh:

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized