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visa fraud

Bank is Embroiled in EB-5 Visa Fraud Case

By Peek & Toland on January 10, 2017

The EB-5 immigrant investor program has been in operation for more than a quarter of a century. However, a visa fraud cause in Vermont highlights why it remains controversial.

Recently, CT Post reported on how an alleged fraud involving a ski resort in Vermont has embroiled a bank which is facing possible legal action.

The scandal is linked to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.

EB-5 visa fraud is probed in Vermont

CT Post reported the developers of Jay Peak, a ski resort in Vermont close to the Canadian border, have been accused of misusing in excess of $200 million in investor funds.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission claims money was transferred from escrow accounts held at People’s United Bank into personal accounts.

The developers are accused of setting up a Ponzi scheme with funds obtained under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.

We outlined the aims of the program in a recent blog.  The EB-5 program gives foreign investors an opportunity to obtain permanent residency in the U.S. if they create a certain amount of jobs and invest at least $500,000 in a rural area or one with high unemployment.

Over the course of about eight years, two men at the center of the investigation raised more than $350 million from investors for the Jay Peak ski resort project as well as a $110 million biomedical research center, according to the SEC.

Several of the foreign investors joined a class action lawsuit against the men and the banks involved, stated the Courthouse News Service. They accuse People’s United Bank of improperly managing the escrow accounts.

The SEC claims the actions of the defendants put the investors’ funds and their immigration petitions in jeopardy.

A recent report in The Atlantic said Congress is looking for a way to reform the EB-5 business investor program.

Chinese investors are the most sizeable group using the EB-5 visa program but concerns about visa fraud and the amount of jobs being created lingers.

At the same time, there is some evidence that the program is a successful way of bringing much-needed investment into some the most deprived parts of the United States.

Our Austin visa lawyers can advise you of the hurdles you will face in making an application and on which visa you should apply for. Contact us via this link.

Posted in Visas

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USCIS Investigates $20 Million Visa Fraud Investigation

By Peek & Toland on October 17, 2016

Visa fraud is a hot topic on the national immigration agenda in the run-up to the presidential election. It made headlines in August when a married couple was accused of fraudulently applying for more than 900 illegal immigration benefits.

Raju Kosuri, 44, and Smriti Jharia, 45, a married Indian couple admitted visa fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States. They face up to 30 years in prison, Times of India reported.

The couple was indicted on April 27. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Virginia said the couple and their co-conspirators applied for more than 900 illegal immigration benefits. They used the H-1B visa program.

Couple indicted for visa fraud in Virginia

A press release from the office stated Kosuri built a staffing business. It was in effect a “visa-for-sale” operation in contravention of federal law.

H1-B visas are used to bring skilled workers to the United States from overseas. However, the system has come under scrutiny in recent years. While some tech companies want more visas, there are also moves in Congress to impose more controls over the visas. Indian workers are the largest beneficiary of the visas.

The Virginia indictment claimed The indictment alleges that Kosuri has set up a network of shell companies that he presented to immigration authorities as independent businesses in need of Indian workers, but which he, in fact ,owned and controlled.

Visa Fraud Scheme Netted More than $20 Million

It alleged that Kosuri and his co-conspirators used the entities to file petitions for non-existent job vacancies at Kosuri’s data center in Danville.Kosuri set up a network of shell companies. He then presented them to immigration authorities as being independent companies that needed Indian workers. In fact, he owned and controlled all of them.

Federal investigators said Kosuri and his co-conspirators used these companies to apply for non-existent vacancies for workers. The scheme netted profits of at least $20 million. Kosuri agreed to forfeit proceeds of his fraud schemes in the amount of $20,900,000.

The couple admitted to defrauding the Small Business Administration over an elaborate scheme to obtain HUBZone certification for a business.

At Peek & Toland, we are well aware of the stiff penalties visa fraud attracts. Major federal prosecutions make headlines. However, there are other cases in which visa fraud allegations are made incorrectly. When a company is applying for H1-B visas there is a lot of pressure to bring skilled workers from overseas in a short time. There are many potential pitfalls in this operation. A defendant may have made a mistake in an application that leads to suspicion and even criminal charges.

Our Austin immigration and criminal defense attorneys are prepared to help you if you face federal charges. Call us for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Visas

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