Former CEO of Two Bellevue IT Companies Sentenced To 7+ Years in Prison for Mail Fraud and Failure to Pay more than $1 Million in Employment Taxes
Multi-Year Scheme using Forged and Fraudulent Documents to Get Visas for Specialty-Occupation Employment
The former CEO of two Bellevue, Washington information-technology (IT) firms was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 87 months in prison for mail fraud and tax crimes related to a multi-year visa-fraud scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. PRADYUMNA KUMAR SAMAL, 50, a citizen of India, was arrested in August 2018 when he arrived on an international flight at Sea-Tac Airport. Prior to the arrest, SAMAL had fled the U.S. in the midst of the visa fraud investigation. He has been in custody since his arrest last year. At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge James L. Robart said “Based on your time in the U.S. you have basically defrauded everyone you could defraud…. It is clear you have not followed the law since you came to this country. You engaged in an extensive scheme…. This was driven by greed: nothing more, nothing less.”
“This was the largest and most sophisticated H-1B visa fraud scheme we have prosecuted in Western Washington,” said U.S. Attorney Brian Moran. “The fraud harmed the workers who wound up far from home, essentially “benched” by the company, with no pay and no job. It harmed foreign workers who legitimately sought, but could not get visas, and it harmed U.S. workers who were excluded from employment opportunities.”
According to records filed in the case, two companies incorporated by SAMAL in 2010 and 2011, engaged in a scheme sometimes referred to as a “bench-and-switch” scheme, to exploit foreign-national workers, compete unlawfully in the market, and defraud the U.S. government. According to the investigation that began in 2015, SAMAL served as the Chief Executive Officer of ‘Divensi’ and ‘Azimetry.’ Both companies were in the business of providing information-technology workers, such as Software Development Engineers, to major corporate clients. SAMAL submitted, and directed his employees to submit, forged and false application materials to the United States government, making it appear as if foreign-national employees named in the petitions had been earmarked for projects contracted to SAMAL’s companies by end clients. In fact, these project assignments were fictitious. The forged documents included forged letters and fraudulent statements of work, which appeared as if they had been signed by senior executives at SAMAL’s clients. After USCIS relied on the false representations and approved the applications, SAMAL’s companies “benched” the foreign nationals – i.e., the companies left those foreign nationals unpaid, and forced them to submit phony sick and annual leave requests – until and unless they were able to place those employees at actual end clients.
More than 250 workers were brought in under the phony applications. The employees were forced to pay SAMAL’s companies a partially-refundable “security deposit” of as much as $5,000 for the visa filings, regardless of whether they were assigned to any projects that provided them with income.
"This sentence punishes a sophisticated offender who fraudulently manipulated the U.S. visa process to exploit foreign-national workers, compete unlawfully in the market, and defraud the U.S. government,” said Matthew Perlman, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, San Francisco Field Office. “The Diplomatic Security Service is committed to ensuring the integrity of the visa process, securing the homeland, and protecting the American work force.”
Not only did SAMAL’s companies fail to pay the clients, it failed to pay more than $1 million in employment taxes. SAMAL has agreed to pay restitution of $1,119,867 for the tax loss. In addition Judge Robart imposed a $10,000 fine.
“Mr. Samal exploited foreign nationals for personal gain while also stealing $1.1 million from his employees' payroll withholdings to fund his luxury car, his mortgage, and his personal accounts in India,” said IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Justin Campbell. “IRS-Criminal Investigation continues to prioritize employment tax fraud in order to protect hard-working employees and serve honest taxpayers.”
The case was investigated by the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Siddharth Velamoor and Michael Dion.