Two Indian-American brothers have been sentenced to over seven years in prison for committing fraud in H1B visa programme, popular among IT and software professionals, to create a low-cost workforce in the US.
Atul Nanda, 46, and his brother, Jiten “Jay” Nanda, 45, were each sentenced by Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn, the Chief U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Texas, to 7 years and two months in federal prison, according to U.S. Attorney John Parker. The brothers were recently convicted by a jury following a trial.
U.S. authorities had filed an indictment in 2013 alleging that the firm created by the brothers, Dibon Solutions, sponsored H-1B workers for jobs that didn’t necessarily exist. The visa holders were only paid if the company was able to place them.
Dibon was headquartered in Carrollton, Texas.
Each was convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud, one count of conspiracy to harbour illegal aliens and four counts of wire fraud. The brothers, who have been out on bond, were remanded to the custody of the US Marshals Service.
“The H-1B visa program is a powerful and positive tool for businesses and foreign workers alike when properly used. When employers abuse the program, the foreign workers become a captive stable of cheap labour, victimised to the company’s financial benefit,” said US Attorney John Parker.
Owners of Dibon Solutions, an IT consulting company located in Texas, Nanda brothers recruited foreign workers with expertise who wanted to work in the US. They sponsored the workers’ H-1B visa with the stated purpose of working at Dibon headquarters in Carrolton, Texas but did not have an actual position at the time they were recruited and knew the workers would ultimately provide consulting services to third-party companies located throughout the US.
Contrary to representations made by the conspirators to the workers (and the government), Jay and Atul directed that the workers only be paid for time spent working at a third- party company and only if the third-party company actually first paid Dibon for the workers’ services.
They falsely represented that the workers had full-time positions and were paid an annual salary, as required by regulation to secure the visas. This scheme provided the conspirators with a labour pool of inexpensive, skilled foreign workers who could be used on an “as needed” basis.
The scheme was profitable as it required minimal overhead and Dibon could charge significant hourly rates for a computer consultant’s services, the Department of Justice said.
Thus, the Nandas earned a substantial profit margin when a consultant was assigned to a project and incurred few costs when a worker was without billable work.
This scheme is known as “benching”. Dibon actively recruited H-1B workers for the “bench”, the Department said. They made the H-1B visa candidates to pay the processing fees that according to the law should be paid by the company.
Three others Siva Sugavanam, 37, Vivek Sharma, 48, and Rohit Mehra, 39, who each pleaded guilty before trial to one count of aiding and abetting visa fraud, were each sentenced earlier this month by Judge Lynn to two years’ probation.
Sugavanam was the lead recruiter for Dibon, Sharma acted as Dibon’s office manager and Mehra recruited employees for the bench and transported benched employees to and from Dibon Headquarters. All three had knowledge of and/or involvement in the filing of false documents with the Department of Labour and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in securing recruits’ employment with Dibon.