Two Silicon Valley executives charged with H-1B visa fraud

A pair of executives at a Silicon Valley data experience company appeared in courtroom this week on charges of H-1B visa fraud allegedly devoted over the course of a decade, federal prosecutors talked about.

Elangovan Punniakoti, 52, and Mary Christeena, 47, have been each charged March 31 with one rely of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and 6 counts of visa fraud. They appeared in federal courtroom for the first time Tuesday.

Punniakoti and Christeena have been the chief authorities and president, respectively, of Santa Clara County-based Innovate Choices Inc., which was included in 2008.

Between 2010 and 2020 the pair submitted 54 fraudulent H-1B visa features, sponsoring employees for positions that didn’t exist, in response to the U.S. authorized skilled’s office for the Northern District of California.

In its place, the workers have been, in influence, lent out to totally different firms that paid better than $2.5 million in prices to Innovate Choices to cowl the costs of employees’ wages and salaries and a income markup.

The H-1B program permits employers to hire worldwide employees rapidly for “specialty occupations” positioned within the US and is a important helpful useful resource for American tech firms, which import numerous their coding and engineering experience.

This method requires that employers fill out an software program for the model new hire, detailing and testifying to the existence and particulars of the job and its size and wages. The employer then fills out one different petition, as soon as extra providing and testifying to the wages and placement of the job.

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In some circumstances, an applicant just like Innovate Choices can submit a petition on behalf of 1 different agency, known as an end-client, the place the H-1B employee would work.

Punniakoti and Christeena allegedly submitted documentation stating that the workers might be employed at Innovate Choices or offsite at end-client firms.

Nevertheless the within jobs at Innovate Choices didn’t exist, prosecutors alleged, and the workers talked about to be working offsite on no account arrived on the totally different firms.

“The highest-client firms listed inside the Innovate Choices’ H-1B features each on no account obtained the proposed H-1B employees or on no account supposed to acquire these H-1B employees,” federal prosecutors talked about inside the indictment.

In its place, in response to the indictment, Punniakoti and Christeena submitted features for H-1B employees who might be positioned with totally different employers that had work for them, not with the end-clients inside the features.

“By way of this scheme, the defendants reaped revenue and gained an unfair profit over employment-staffing firms,” prosecutors talked about.

The charges come a 12 months after President Biden allowed the expiration of a ban on H-1B visas, implement by then-President Trump inside the early days of the pandemic.

If convicted, Punniakoti and Christeena would possibly face 5 years in jail for the conspiracy price and 10-year sentences for each rely of fraud, together with a $250,000 implausible for each price.