Owner of Basketball Academy Pleads Guilty to Visa Fraud
Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Beth Drake stated today that Michael A. Rawson, age 48, of the United Kingdom, pled guilty in federal court in Greenville, to conspiracy to commit visa fraud, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Senior United States District Judge Henry M. Herlong, Jr., of Greenville, accepted the plea and will impose sentence after he has reviewed the presentence report which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.
Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that Rawson and other associates made false statements to the United States in an effort to get an L1 Visa, which allows for intra-company transfers if certain criteria are met, to aid in the establishment of a for-profit basketball academy in the United States: 22ft Basketball Academy. At one time 22ft Basketball Academy had relationships with Shannon Forrest Christian School and Anderson Christian School. A key false statement was that 22ft Dutch, a related entity, was operational in Europe and would remain so after Rawson immigrated to the United States to work with 22ft US. In truth, 22ft Dutch had no operational office and ceased to do business while Rawson was in the United States. Thus, there could be no legitimate intra-company transfer.
Ms. Drake stated the maximum penalty Rawson can receive is a fine of $250,000 and/or imprisonment for 5 years, supervised release of 3 years, plus a special assessment of $100.
The case was investigated by agents with the ICE – Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant United States Attorney Bill Watkins of the Greenville office handled the case.