Indian American woman pleads guilty to obstructing justice in H-1B visa fraud investigation


NEW YORK: An Indian American human resources manager for two information technology companies in New Jersey, Hiral Patel, 34, has pleaded guilty to obstructing a federal investigation as part of a scheme to fraudulently obtain H-1B visas.

Patel, of Jersey City, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty in Newark federal court to an information charging her with conspiracy to obstruct justice, , U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced, on Wednesday.

According to the document filed in this case and statements made in court: 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.

Patel’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 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS), the conspirators represented that the foreign workers had full-time positions and were paid an annual salary, as required to secure the visas, according to the Justice Department.

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 the U.S. Department of Labor (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.

Patel – who was a human resources manager for SCM Data and MMC Systems – admitted that in February 2015 and March 2015, in response to a USDOL audit, she was involved in preparing false leave slips for the foreign workers on behalf of SCM Data and MMC Systems.

Patel faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  Sentencing is scheduled for June 1, 2017.