Washington: Two Indian-American brothers have been sentenced to over seven years in prison for committing fraud in the H-1B visa programme, popular among IT and software professionals, to create a low-cost workforce in the US.
Atul Nanda, 46, and Jiten ‘Jay’ Nanda, 45, were each sentenced by Chief US District Judge Barbara MG Lynn in Texas to 87 months in federal prison.
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 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, the 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.
Mr Sugavanam was the lead recruiter for Dibon, Mr Sharma acted as Dibon’s office manager and Mr 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.