NEWARK, NJ (TIP): A 39-year-old Indian-American woman attorney on Monday, October 17, pleaded guilty to visa fraud charges related to students and H-1B visas, federal prosecutors said. Sunila Dutt, of Virginia, pleaded guilty before US District Judge Kevin McNulty in Newark federal court to an information charging her with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and obstruct justice.

Dutt, an immigration attorney for two information technology companies – SCM Data Inc and MMC Systems Inc – admitted that she submitted phony documents and obstructed a federal investigation as part of a scheme that fraudulently obtained foreign worker visas, US Attorney Paul J Fishman announced.

According to court information, SCM Data Inc and MMC Systems Inc offered consultants to clients in need of IT support. Both companies recruited foreign nationals, often student visa holders or recent college graduates and sponsored them for H-1B visas. Dutt and other conspirators recruited foreign workers with purported IT expertise who sought work in the United States. The conspirators then sponsored the foreign workers’ H-1B visas with the stated purpose of working for SCM Data and MMC Systems’ clients throughout the United States.

When submitting the visa paperwork to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the conspirators falsely represented that the foreign workers had full-time positions and were paid an annual salary, as required to secure the H-1B visas, federal prosecutors alleged. Contrary to these representations and in violation of the H-1B program, the conspirators paid the foreign workers only when they were placed at a third-party client who entered into a contract with SCM Data or MMC Systems.

Justice Department alleged that in some instances, false payroll records were generated to create the appearance that the foreign workers were paid full-time wages. Dutt admitted that she submitted, or caused to be submitted, one or more filings to USCIS falsely representing the companies would employ foreign workers for in-house positions when no such positions existed. Dutt faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a USD 250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for February 6, 2017.