former branson business owner pleads guilty to visa fraud scheme
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a former Branson, Mo., business owner pleaded guilty in federal court today to a visa fraud scheme in which he illegally sent Filipino workers to fill jobs in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
John Voisine, 54, of Branson, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard E. Dorr to visa fraud.
“This Branson business was a major employer of foreign workers in the United States,” Phillips said. “Such rampant visa fraud not only victimizes the workers, it poses both an economic and a national security threat.”
At the time of this fraud, Voisine was the owner and president of Santa Cruz Management, Inc., a labor leasing company in Branson that provided foreign workers to employers in the Branson area under H-2B visas. Santa Cruz Management was listed among the nation’s top five H2B employers in a 2009 report released by the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.
Daniel R. Petrole, Deputy Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Labor said, “Today’s guilty plea sends a strong message to those who would intentionally submit false labor certification applications to the U.S. Department of Labor in order to illegally employ foreign workers. My office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to combat this type of crime.”
“The Diplomatic Security Service is firmly committed to working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our colleagues in the Department of Homeland Security and the Labor Department to investigate and bring those who commit crimes to justice,” said Scott P. Bultrowicz, Director of the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. “Such crimes potentially threaten the national security of the United States.”
“Enforcement actions like the one that led to this plea send a strong signal to any business owner that may consider gaming the immigration system,” said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Chicago. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify and investigate these businesses to maintain the integrity of the immigration system.”
Through his company, Voisine knowingly submitted H2B application forms containing falsifications or misrepresentations to the U.S. Department of Labor in October 2007 which stated that Santa Cruz Management would employ 306 workers from the Philippines in the housekeeping industry at hotels and motels in the Branson area during 2008. In reality, 86 foreign workers were illegally displaced by Santa Cruz Management to fulfill labor contracts in Myrtle Beach from Jan. 1 to July 21, 2008. Santa Cruz Management was not approved as an H-2B employer for Myrtle Beach.
By pleading guilty today, Voisine agreed to forfeit to the government $169,661, which represents his profit from the scheme. Santa Cruz Management earned $520,198 in gross revenue from the South Carolina contracts, with approximately $350,537 in gross wages paid to the unlawfully employed foreign workers.
This investigation was initiated by the U.S. Embassy in Manila after discovering that Santa Cruz Management had petitioned for a significantly higher number of foreign workers than in previous years. A preliminary investigation conducted by the embassy revealed that foreign workers were not employed at locations listed on the H2B visa petition. The Diplomatic Security Service then requested assistance from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations to investigate potential visa fraud violations.
Under federal statutes, Voisine is subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall D. Eggert. It was investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Inspector General, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.