OAKLAND – Madhu Santhanam pleaded guilty in federal court in Oakland today to conspiracy to commit visa fraud, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag and Special Agent in Charge David Zebley of the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service.
In pleading guilty, Santhanam admitted that, between September 2009 and June 2013, he made at least 25 fraudulent I-129 petitions. These documents are required by U.S. immigration laws and regulations to be submitted in order to obtain H-IB visas for highly skilled immigrant applicants seeking to work in the United States. In these petitions, an American employer must certify that it has high-technology jobs that it cannot fill with U.S. citizens. In many of Santhanam’s fraudulent I-129 applications, he falsely represented that the applicants would be working at his company, MAAN Systems, Inc., on an in-house, proprietary product named “e-ntelligent Applications manager.” In others, he falsely represented that the applicants would be working at Western Digital and Walmart, and he included forged documentation, including forged employment offer letters, with each of these petitions. In his plea agreement, Santhanam agreed to pay a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $400,000.
Santhanam, 41, of Union City, was arrested on Nov. 19, 2013, and made his initial appearance in federal court after being charged by federal complaint on Nov. 14, 2013. He has remained free on bond since his initial appearance. Santhanam was charged by information on March 13, 2014.
Santhanam’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 27, 2015, before United States District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers. The maximum statutory penalty for conspiracy to commit visa fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and 1546, is a maximum term of 5 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and 3 years of supervised release. However, any sentence will be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Brian C. Lewis is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Janice Pagsanjan. The prosecution is the result of an investigation led by the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service’s representative to the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF) overseen by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement HSI. 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.