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Press Release

Lecanto Ophthalmologist Pleads Guilty To Visa Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida

Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that Ashish Sanon (51, Lecanto) pleaded guilty today to visa fraud.  He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set. Sanon has also agreed to forfeit assets, which specifically includes, but is not limited to, a money judgment in the amount of $250,000, representing the proceeds he obtained as a result of his offense.

According to the plea agreement, Sanon is a naturalized citizen of Canada who was born in Chandigarh, India.  In 1987, Sanon obtained his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. From 1998 until 2012, he was repeatedly granted temporary status in the United States, pursuant to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  Admitted applicants, such as Sanon, receive what is known as Treaty NAFTA (TN) nonimmigrant status.  All TN status professionals are prohibited from establishing a business or practice in the United States in which they are self-employed.  Specifically, physicians who are granted TN status may only teach or conduct research while in the United States.

In early 2012, investigators received information that Sanon had been engaging in full medical practice for more than 10 years, in violation of the rules and regulations of his TN visa.  Interviews with former employees of Sanon corroborated this information.  Investigators ultimately discovered that Sanon had several provider numbers assigned to him for medical practice, which indicated that he was billing for services and practicing medicine.

"Visa fraud takes jobs away from U.S. citizens and others who are legally allowed to work in this country.  Through cases like this one, HSI is helping to protect our economy and preserve job opportunities from being lost due to fraud," said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa.

“This case underscores the importance of applying Medicare’s rules and regulations to ensure that only qualified physicians are permitted to provide services,” stated Acting Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s Miami Regional Office.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Inspector General; and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Carlton C. Gammons.

Updated January 26, 2015