Former CEO And COO Of JHL Biotech Sentenced For Conspiring To Steal Trade Secrets And Commit Wire Fraud Exceeding $101 Million
SAN JOSE – Venkat Guntipally was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to commit several crimes including visa fraud, obstruction of justice, use of false documents, and mail fraud, announced Acting United States Attorney Alex G. Tse; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Ryan Spradlin; and U.S. State Department, Diplomatic Security Service, San Francisco Field Office Special Agent in Charge Matthew Perlman. The sentence was handed down by the Honorable Lucy H. Koh, U.S. District Judge. Guntpally is the last of four defendants to be sentenced in connection with the visa fraud scheme.
A federal grand jury indicted Venkat Guntipally, 49, his wife, Sunitha Guntipally, 44, of Fremont, and two other defendants, Pratap “Bob” Kondamoori, 56, of Incline Village, Nev., and Sandhya Ramireddi, 58, of Pleasanton, in a 33-count indictment filed May 5, 2016. The indictment contains charges in connection with the submission of fraudulent applications for H-1B specialty-occupation work visas.
“Through this multi-year conspiracy, Mr. Guntipally and his co-conspirators exploited foreign workers for profit, defrauded the United States, and engaged in brazen obstruction of justice,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tse. “Today’s sentence reflects that such crimes harm the nation’s immigration system and erode public trust. This office will continue to prosecute defendants who are out to make an unlawful profit and abuse our immigration laws for purely personal gain.”
“As the lead agency in this investigation, the Diplomatic Security Service demonstrated its commitment to maintaining the integrity of U.S. visas. We pursue those who fraudulently use worker visas, like the H-1B, for personal gain,” said Special Agent in Charge Perlman. “Diplomatic Security Service’s strong relationship with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, continues to be essential in the pursuit of justice.”
“Unscrupulous actions by employers to gain an unfair advantage will not be tolerated and HSI will commit its resources to stop these types of criminals from gaming our immigration system to line their pockets with money at the cost of others,” said Ryan L. Spradlin, Special Agent in Charge of HSI operations in northern California and northern Nevada.
Venkat Guntipally pleaded guilty on April 24, 2017, at which time he admitted that he and his wife founded and owned DS Soft Tech and Equinett, two employment-staffing companies for technology firms. In addition, Guntipally admitted that between approximately 2010 and 2014, he and his wife, together with others, submitted to the government more than one hundred fraudulent petitions for foreign workers to be placed at other purported companies. The end-client companies listed in the fraudulent H-1B applications either did not exist or never received the proposed H-1B workers. None of the listed companies ever intended to receive those H-1B workers. The scheme’s intended purpose was to create a pool of H-1B workers who then could be placed at legitimate employment positions in the Northern District of California and elsewhere. Through this scheme, Venkat Guntipally, along with his co-conspirators, gained an unfair advantage over competing employment-staffing firms, and the Guntipallys earned millions in ill-gotten gains. Venkat Guntipally also admitted that he and his codefendants obstructed justice, including by directing workers to lie to investigators and by laundering money.
Venkat Guntipally was charged with one count of conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; ten counts of substantive visa fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1546(a); seven counts of using false documents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(3); and four counts of mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341. He pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and the remaining charges were dismissed.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Koh ordered Venkat Guntipally to serve three years of supervised release and ordered him to forfeit $500,000. Venkat Guntipally was ordered to self-surrender on or before June 14, 2019.
All three of Venkat Guntipally’s co-defendants previously pleaded guilty to their respective roles in the scheme. Last year, Judge Koh sentenced Sunitha Guntipally to 52 months in prison, Ramireddi to 14 months’ imprisonment, and Kondamoori to 20 months’ imprisonment for their respective conduct.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonas Lerman is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Laurie Worthen. 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 the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations. 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.