Two Indian-Americans, who recruited foreign workers mainly from India with purported IT expertise, were arrested today on charges of H-1B visa fraud, the New Jersey Department of Justice said.
Sowrabh Sharma, 31, of New York, along with Shikha Mohta, 33, of Jersey City, New Jersey, head of finance for the companies, SCM Data and MMC Systems have been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and to obstruct justice and one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens.
According to the complaint, by the Justice Department, SCM Data and MMC Systems 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.
The Justice Department said Mr Sharma is scheduled to make his initial appearance later in the day before US Magistrate Judge Cathy L Waldor in Newark federal court.
Ms Mohta was previously arrested along with another employee of SCM Data, Hiral Patel, in May 2015 on a criminal complaint and was released on a $100,000 bond.
Prosecutors said SCM Data, MMC Systems, Mr Sharma, Ms Mohta and other conspirators recruited foreign workers with purported IT expertise who sought work in the United States.
They then sponsored 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 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,” prosecutors said.
They alleged that contrary to these representations and in violation of the H-1B program, SCM Data, MMC Systems, Mr Sharma, Ms Mohta and others 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.
The visa fraud and obstruction of justice conspiracy charge carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The alien harboring conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The H1-B program allows businesses in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers with specialized or technical expertise in a particular field, such as accounting, engineering or computer science. As part of the H-1B program, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) require employers to meet specific labor conditions to ensure that American workers are not adversely impacted, while the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division safeguards the treatment and compensation of H-1B workers. Congress sets a numerical cap for the admission of skilled workers into the United States.