Visa+Fraud Min

Former Bellevue CEO sentenced to seven years for H-1B visa fraud

A former CEO of two Washington IT firms has been sentenced to 87 months in prison, and a sizeable fine, for a visa fraud scheme that spanned many years and affected over 250 workers. Pradyumma Kumar Samal, a citizen of India himself, described the scheme as a “short cut” and pleaded guilty to the charges.

The scheme, referred to as “bench-and-switch” involved the exploitation of foreign workers, extracting a partially refundable “security deposit” of up to $5,000 from immigrants to secure a visa for a position in Samal’s companies, jobs that often did not materialise on arrival in the US.

Samal’s companies would submit visa applications based on fraudulent and forged statements. After the approval of the visa by US government, Samal would then “bench” the workers, leaving them unpaid, forcing them to submit fake requests for sick leave and annual holiday.

The IT companies in question, Divensi and Azimetry, has supplied workers to large companies including Microsoft and Amazon. Large tech companies rely heavily on the H-1B program, which is an employment-based visa scheme for temporary highly skilled workers, often bringing talented IT workers from India who are willing to work for less than American citizens.

The H-1B scheme requires foreign workers to have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience in their employment field and demands that each application is submitted by a sponsoring company that pays the application fee on behalf of the candidate. The visa lasts for up to 6 years and the number of applications is capped at 65,000. After the cap has been reached, H-1B visa applications are subject to a “lottery” with applications being approved by a random selection process.

In addition to not paying the workers themselves, Samal also failed to pay more than $1 million in employment taxes, with U.S. Attorney Brian Moran calling it “the largest and most sophisticated H-1B visa fraud scheme we have prosecuted in Western Washington.” Moran went on to point out the Samal had not only harmed foreign workers who found themselves far from home with no job, but also those foreign workers who legitimately sought a visa but were denied due to the cap.

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