A federal grand jury in Brooklyn has returned an indictment against Rena Beduya Avendula, the owner and managing executive of Professional Placement & Recruitment, Inc. (PPRI), charging her with a visa fraud scheme that brought Filipino citizens into the United States for financial profit. Avendula is charged with five counts of visa fraud and with conspiring to defraud the United States, commit visa fraud and illegally bring aliens into the United States. Avendula was arrested Friday, arraigned before United States Magistrate Judge Ramon E. Reyes, Jr., and released on a $75,000 bond.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William B. Gannon, Special Agent-in-Charge, United States Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), Boston Field Office, announced the charges.
“As alleged in the indictment, Avendula engineered a fraud scheme for personal profit by creating fake job positions to deceive a government program that allows a limited number of foreign nationals to enter the United States temporarily to fill highly specialized positions,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “We will continue to protect the integrity of our immigration process by ensuring that only qualified people receive these visas.”
“The Diplomatic Security Service is firmly committed to working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our other law enforcement partners to investigate allegations of crime related to passport and visa fraud and to bring those who commit these crimes to justice,” stated DSS Special Agent-in-Charge Gannon. Mr. Gannon also praised the efforts of the DSS New York Field Office, which provided outstanding investigative assistance during this case.
As alleged in the indictment, Avendula engaged in a scheme from October 2009 to February 2015 to bring Filipino citizens into the United States illegally by fraudulently claiming to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that the foreign nationals would be employed in “specialty occupations,” thereby qualifying for H-1B visas. The H-1B nonimmigrant visa classification allows foreign nationals to enter the United States temporarily for the specific purpose of working for the employer in a “specialty occupation.” A “specialty occupation” requires certain specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s or higher level degree for entry into the occupation within the United States labor market. General registered nurses (RNs) typically do not qualify as beneficiaries for H-1B visas. A sponsoring U.S. employer must submit a USCIS Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, along with supporting documentation, attesting that the visa beneficiary will be employed in a specialty occupation and paid at least the local prevailing wage paid to similarly qualified U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents working in the area. A limited number of H-1B visas are issued each year.
As alleged in the indictment, Avendula used PPRI, based in Woodside, New York, to further her visa fraud scheme. PPRI specialized in providing nursing care to elderly patients. Avendula, in an effort to secure some of the limited number of H-1B visas that are available each year, falsely stated that foreign nurses would be working in specialized nursing at prevailing wage rates. In fact, they were going to work as licensed practical nurses or RNs at significantly lower rates of pay, mostly at nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. The defendant sponsored dozens of fraudulent applications and profited from the filing fees she collected from the nurses and from the health care facilities that paid PPRI.
The charges announced today are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, the defendant faces a statutory maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment for the visa fraud charges, and 10 years’ imprisonment for each foreign national she induced to reside in the United States in connection with the visa fraud conspiracy.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Section. Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth Losey Macchiaverna is in charge of the prosecution.
RENA BEDUYA AVENDULA
Woodside, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-246 (DLI)