Namrata Patnaik of Saratoga and Kartiki Parekh of Santa Clara face federal visa fraud charges, plus accusation of conspiracy to commit visa fraud in a $7 million H-1B visa scheme announced by federal prosecutors.
Patnaik was also charged with money laundering, according to U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. HInds in a press release.
The two men were charged in an indictment read in federal court in San Jose Feb. 11.
According to the indictment, PerfectVIPs, headquartered in San Jose and incorporated in 2010 as a computer chip design product and services company, sponsored foreign workers hired with fraudulent H-1B visas.
Patnaik, 42, acted as CEO of PerfectVIPs. Parekh, 56, acted as the company’s human resources manager.
The indictment charges that from 2011 through April 2017 Patnaik and Parekh submitted fraudulent H-1B visa applications for foreign workers sponsored by PerfectVIPs and that Patnaik later laundered the proceeds of the visa fraud.
The indictment charges that from 2011 through April 2017 Patnaik and Parekh submitted approximately 85 fraudulent H-1B visa applications for temporary nonimmigrant workers sponsored by PerfectVIPs.
Each application contained representations under penalty of perjury. During the process, Patnaik and Parekh submitted statements that the foreign workers would be employed by PerfectVIPs to work on PerfectVIPs’s in-house contracts and projects at PerfectVIPs’s office locations.
Once the applications were approved, Patnaik and Parekh instead created a pool of H-1B workers that were placed at employment positions with other employers, not with PerfectVIPs, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors said this practice “provided PerfectVIPs an unfair and illegal advantage over employment-staffing firms.”
During the period of Patnaik’s and Parekh’s conspiracy, the indictment alleges, the other employers paid fees of nearly $7 million to PerfectVIPs to cover the cost of the H-1B workers’ wages and salaries as well as a profit markup for PerfectVIPs.
Patnaik and Parekh made their initial appearances in San Jose federal court before United States Magistrate Judge Nathanael M. Cousins. Both defendants were ordered to appear in United States District Court in San Jose on April 12 before United States District Judge Beth L. Freeman.
The federal indictment charges both Patnaik and Parekh with one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud in violation and two counts of visa fraud. The indictment also charges Patnaik with one count of money laundering.
The maximum sentence for the conspiracy violation is 5 years.The maximum statutory imprisonment sentence for each count of fraud and money laundering is 10 years. Each of the statutes also carries a maximum statutory fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss amount or, for money laundering, twice the amount of the criminally derived property involved.
H-1B visas are issued through the U.S. government’s H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers program. With an H-1B visa, an employer can employ a foreign worker in a “specialty occupation” in the United States on a temporary, nonimmigrant basis.
A specialty occupation requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge and requires the employee in the occupation have a bachelor's degree or its equivalent in the relevant specialty.
Each employer seeking to obtain an H-1B visa to employ a nonimmigrant foreign worker is required to submit an application to the U.S. Department of Labor which attests, among other things, to labor conditions and describes the existence, duration, and wages associated with the temporary job. A subsequent petition requires, among other information, biographical data of the proposed foreign worker and identification of the address where the proposed foreign worker will be working.
Asst. U.S. Attorney Sarah Griswold is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Lynette Dixon. The prosecution was the result of an investigation led by the DSS representative to the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF), overseen by Homeland Security Investigations. The DBFTF is a multi-agency task force that coordinates investigations into fraudulent immigration documents.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Office of Fraud Detection and National Security also assisted with the investigation.