U.S. Immigration Manager For Information Technology Company Admits Obstruction Of Justice
NEWARK, N.J. – A U.S. immigration manager for an information technology company today admitted that he obstructed federal investigations as part of a scheme to fraudulently obtain foreign worker visas, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Hari Karne, 32, of Hyderabad, India, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty in Newark federal court to an information charging him with conspiracy to obstruct justice.
According to the information:
SCM Data Inc. and MMC Systems Inc. offered consultants to clients in need of IT support. Both companies recruited foreign nationals, often student visa holders or recent college graduates, and sponsored them for H-1B visas. The H-1B program allows businesses in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers with specialized or technical expertise in a particular field, such as accounting, engineering or computer science. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) approves and processes applications for residency within the United States, and the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) is responsible for the enforcement of labor regulations, including immigration-related employment standards and worker protections.
Karne’s conspirators recruited foreign workers with purported IT expertise who sought work in the United States. The conspirators then sponsored the foreign workers’ H-1B visas with the stated purpose of working for SCM Data and MMC Systems’ clients throughout the United States. When submitting the visa paperwork to USCIS, the conspirators represented that the foreign workers had full-time positions and were paid an annual salary, as required to secure the H-1B visas.
Contrary to these representations and in violation of the H-1B program, the conspirators paid the foreign workers only when they were placed at a third-party client who entered into a contract with SCM Data or MMC Systems. The conspirators told the foreign workers who were not currently working that if they wanted to maintain their H-1B visa status, they would need to come up with what their gross wages would be in cash and give it to SCM Data and MMC Systems so the companies could issue payroll checks to the foreign workers.
The conspirators then encouraged the foreign workers to submit the bogus payroll checks to USCIS as proof that the workers were engaged in full-time work despite the fact that they were not working for the companies. Once USDOL launched an audit of SCM Data and MMC Systems, the conspirators fabricated leave or vacation slips to USDOL for the time periods that the foreign workers were not working to conceal the fact that they were not paid during those time periods as required by federal law.
Karne – who was a U.S. immigration manger with SCM Private Limited in India, which had service agreements with SCM Data and MMC Systems – admitted that he advised foreign workers to pay SCM Data and MMC Systems in cash the approximate amount they were supposed to be paid by the companies in order to generate false payroll records.
In or before January 2015, MMC Systems stopped paying a person – referred to in the information as “Individual 1” – on a third-party contract. Karne admitted that on Feb. 20, 2015, he instructed Individual 1 to pay MMC Systems in cash so that MMC Systems could issue a check to Individual 1 and falsely claim that MMC Systems had paid Individual 1 wages in January 2015. On Feb. 20, 2015, Karne explained to Individual 1 the importance of having paystubs and employment status because USCIS would inquire about both.
Karne further admitted that in February 2015 and March 2015, in response to a USDOL audit, he assisted SCM Data and MMC Systems in the preparation of false leave slips for foreign workers that were submitted to the USDOL to conceal the fact that the foreign workers were not paid during those time periods as required by federal law.
Karne faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for April 3, 2016.
U.S. Attorney Fishman praised special agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Terence S. Opiola, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael C. Mikulka, with the investigation leading to today’s plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joyce M. Malliet of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s National Security Unit in Newark.
Defense Counsel: Vikas Dhar, Esq.